Skip to main content

Full text of "Courtly love in Chaucer and Gower"

See other formats









MAR 3 J 1956 




This work is a revision of a study originally made by the 
writer while a student in the Graduate School of Harvard Uni- 
versity. The limitation of the consideration to the so-called "love 
paramours " made necessary the omission of much of Chaucer's 
best and most interesting work. But even so, in what is left, 
there is abundant opportunity for observing the poet's genius. 
The romantic love in Chaucer, although it differs in no essential 
respect from that treated by his predecessors and contemporaries 
in France, becomes in his hands the material for an artistic 
product of an entirely new sort. The very artistic excellence 
of the work has sometimes led critics, the writer believes, 
to wrong impressions of the love itself, and hence to wrong 
assumptions not only as to the poet's purpose but also as to 
his achievement. This fact may perhaps be considered sufficient 
reason for the present study. 

Readers nowadays, as a matter of course and, it would seem, 
often conventionally, complain of the dullness of Gower. His 
treatment of love does rrot make it possible for us to deny the 
justice of such a complaint. At any rate, to the reader of early 
erotic literature, he serves the useful purpose of showing by 
contrast how brilliant may be a real poet's treatment of romantic 
love. Some such purpose, it is hoped, the chapter on Gower 
will serve in this study. 

It is a pleasure to express my appreciation of the interest 
shown in the progress of my work by my friends and teachers 
of the Graduate School of Harvard University. In an especial 
way, I am under obligation to Professor Kittredge. I began the 


study at his suggestion, and while working at it I had the 
opportunity of consulting him freely, and of receiving his criti- 
cisms and suggestions. Students who have done work under 
Professor Kittredge's direction, and perhaps only they, will 
realize all that this means. In helping to revise the work and 
to arrange it for the press, both he and Professor Robinson 
have been most kind. They have made many valuable sugges- 
tions which I have gladly adopted, and which I here gratefully 
acknowledge. w Q D 


















































INDEX 255 




It is in the south of France and at a very early period that 
we must look for the origin of the system of Courtly Love. 
Gathered about several small courts, there existed, as early as 
the eleventh century, a brilliant society, in which woman held 
the supreme place, and in which, under her influence, vast im- 
portance was attached to social etiquette and decorum. Definite 
rules governed the sexes in all their relations, and especially in 
matters of love. It was to this society that the troubadours be- 
longed, and it was love, chiefly, that was the inspiration of their 
songs. 1 In the troubadours, therefore, we find the earliest ex- 
pression of the ideas of courtly love. 

In time, these ideas were introduced into northern France, 
largely through the influence of Eleanor of Aquitaine. This amo- 
rous duchess took a lively interest in the doctrines, as well as 
the practices, of courtly love. Before leaving her southern home 
to become queen of France, she received, and, it seems, en- 
couraged, advances of a very familiar nature from the troubadour 
Bernart de Ventadorn. At the northern court, also, she lent 
her authority to the new doctrines. In this she was followed 
by her daughter, Marie of Champagne, and other noble ladies, 

1 Romania, 1883, p. 521 ; G. Paris, La Literature Franfaise au Moyen Age, 
3d ed., Paris, 1905, p. 199. 



who amused themselves and the fashionable society about them 
by rendering decisions on difficult questions which were argued 
before the mock Courts of Love. 1 Naturally, such decisions 
soon came to be regarded as definite rules and regulations of the 
courtly system. Thus, in northern France, the new ideas of love 
received from the first the sanction and support of women of 
high rank, through whose influence they found their way into 
contemporary literature. Marie of Champagne, for instance, im- 
pressed them upon Chretien de Troies, and he, in turn, intro- 
duced them into the romances of the Round Table. 2 Under his 
hands, the Arthurian romances became the representatives par 
excellence of the chivalrous and courtly ideal of twelfth-century 
society. 3 His Conte de la Charrette, which reflects in an especial 
manner the conceptions of the courtly love, owes its existence, 
as he himself tells us, 4 to Marie of Champagne. 

The ideas of love in the romances of Chretien are the ideas 
found in the lyrics of the troubadours ; but in many instances 
the genius of the French poet has transformed them into some- 
thing peculiarly his own. The fancies and conceits of the earlier 
poetry he elaborates highly ; mere hints he develops into formal 
doctrines. He subjects the emotions of the human heart to 
delicate and subtle analysis, and philosophizes upon them with 
astonishing minuteness. The result of this process of refinement 
was the formulation of certain doctrines, the observance of which 
became equally obligatory upon courtly lovers and upon later 
writers who dealt with the subject. 

As the system was left by Chretien, so it was to remain. It 
would be wrong, however, to suppose that the crystallizing of 
the courtly sentiments was due to him alone. The process had 
begun in the poetry of the troubadours. Even for them love 

1 Mott, TJie System of Courtly Love, Boston, 1896, p. 57. 

2 Paris, p. 202. 8 Ibid., p. 103. 

4 Chretien de Troies, Conte de la Ckarrette, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1899, U- I- 3 a 


was an art to be practised rather than a passion to be felt. It 
was largely a matter of behavior. To regulate his conduct in 
strict accord with the rules and restrictions with which the art 
was hedged about, became the lover's chief concern. Naturally, 
the literature which drew its inspiration from such love was 
devoid of spontaneity and real feeling. In the poetry of Bernart 
de Ventadorn, it is true, there is to be found what seems to 
be earnest passion ; but the writings of the troubadours after 
Bernart are to a great extent characterized by artificiality and 
monotony of sentiment. Through each poet's imitation of his 
predecessor, the very emotional experiences of lovers became 
stereotyped. 1 The exaggerations employed to give a semblance 
of intensity to an artificial passion became poetical conventions. 
It was with such material that Chretien worked. His contribu- 
tion to the courtly system was the fixing of ideas already present 
in twelfth-century literature, the development of others, and the 
introduction of them all into the romances of the Round Table. 
The interest in courtly love is nowhere more clearly mani- 
fested than in certain works roughly contemporary with Chretien, 
which treat of love as an art, setting forth in a scientific manner 
the principles of the system and codifying the laws upon which 
it was based. This method of treatment had its origin in the 
erotic writings of Ovid, 2 the favorite poet of the mediaeval 
schools. 3 His Ars Amatoria was several times translated into 
French, curiously altered to suit the manners and customs of 
mediaeval society, the sensualism of the original being newly 
interpreted in accord with the chivalrous spirit. 4 Of the works 
of this period which, following the plan of Ovid, treat of love 
as an art, the most important is the De Arte Honest e Amandi 
by Andreas Capellanus. 5 Here we have fully worked out the 

1 Mott, p. 1 6. 2 Paris, p. 167. 8 Ibid., p. 83. 

4 Paris, La Potsie du Moyen Age, ist Series, Paris, 1887, pp. 189 ff. 

5 Ed. E. Trojel, Havniae, 1892. 


jurisprudence of that courtly system which is exemplified in the 
romances of the Round Table. 1 Andreas treats with scholastic 
precision the following questions : What is love ? What are its 
effects ? Between whom can it exist ? How is it acquired, re- 
tained, augmented, diminished, terminated ? What is the duty 
of one lover when the other proves unfaithful ? 2 He is chiefly 
concerned, however, with showing whom the lover should choose 
for his amie, how he may win her, and how her favor may be 
retained. This threefold division was common with the medi- 
aeval imitators of Ovid, 3 and is manifestly copied from the plan 
of the Ars Amatoria.^ The second of his three questions 
Andreas answers by means of eight imaginary conversations 
between model lovers of various ranks. He also deals with the 
love of clerks, monks, courtesans, and rustics ; he condemns 
love which is acquired by means of money, as well as that 
obtained with too little difficulty. Chapter seven of the second 
book contains twenty-one decisions rendered by noble ladies, on 
disputed points of love. 5 Chapter eight gives the thirty-one 

1 Paris, La Litt. Fr. au M. A., p. 167. 2 Andreas, p. 3. 

8 Paris, La Poesie du M. A., pp. 189 ff. 

* W. A. Neilson, The Origin and Sources of the Court of Love ', Boston, 1899, 
p. 177. 

5 These decisions have been used as an argument in favor of the reality of 
the so-called courts of love, by those who maintain that the courts were judicial 
bodies, before which disputed points of love were carried for settlement. The 
question was debated for many years after Diez disputed their reality in his 
Ueber die Minnehbfe in 1825. The principal scholars of recent times who held 
in favor of the reality of the courts, were E. Trojel in his Middelalderens 
Elskovshoffer (Copenhagen, 1880) and P. Rajna in Le Corti d'Amore (Milan, 
1890. Cf. also Tre Studi per la Storia del Libra di Andrea Cappellano in Studj 
di Filologia Romanza, V, 193-272). The opposing view was strongly maintained 
by G. Paris in the Journal de Savants, 1888, pp. 664 ff. and 727 ff., and in 
Romania, XIX, 372. See also Neilson, pp. 240 ff. The latest contribution to 
the discussion (which has flagged of late) is an article by G. Zonta, Rileg- 
gendo Andrea Cappellano, in Studi Medievali, 1908, Fasc. I, in which he argues 
with G. Paris against the reality of the courts of love. For a good summary 
of the history of the controversy, see the article in Johnson's Encyclopedia, 
v > 375-376, by A. R. Marsh, entitled " Courts of Love." 


statutes which bear the stamp of authority of the god of Love 
himself. Besides the thirty-one rules, there is also in the work 
a short code of twelve which purport to have been revealed to a 
knight in a vision of the Palace of Love. These two codes sum 
up the whole doctrine of Andreas. His third and last book is 
entitled De Reprobatione Amoris, and is modeled on Ovid's 
Remedia. Throughout the work there are references to Eleanor 
of Aquitaine, Ermengarde of Narbonne, and the Countess Marie 
of Champagne, oftenest to the last named. Obviously it was 
her theories which, to a large degree, inspired Andreas to write 
his treatise. 1 

The book of Andreas furnishes us a ready means of under- 
standing the abstract principles and the laws underlying the 
courtly system. 2 These principles, which are few in number, are : 

1. Courtly love is sensual. Andreas makes this clear at the outset by 
defining love as a passion arising from the contemplation of beauty in the 
opposite sex, and culminating in the gratification of the physical desires 
thus awakened. 3 On this definition the whole system rests. The insistence 
with which the sensual element is dwelt upon throughout the book, con- 
trasts strangely with the high ideals of conduct and character presented at 
the same time. For this incongruity, however, Andreas is not responsible. 
The love which was practised by the courtly society of southern France, 
and which spread to the North, though essentially impure, was yet exalted 
as uplifting and ennobling and productive of every virtue. 

2. Courtly love is illicit and, for the most part, adulterous. Indeed, 
in the courtly system marriage has no place. The Countess Marie is re- 
ported by Andreas to have decided, in a disputed case, that " love cannot 

1 Romania, 1883, pp. 521 ff. 

2 A resume of the principles of the courtly love may be found in J. Bedier, 
De Nicolao Museto, Paris, 1893, pp. 23 ff. He makes the statement: " All the 
mediaeval lyric poetry takes its rise in a few principles." He then proceeds 
to tell what these principles are, and, in so doing, mentions, in the main, the 
points which appear in the following pages of this chapter. 

3 " Amor est passio quaedam innata procedens ex visione et immoderata 
cogitatione formae alterius sexUs, ob quam aliquis super omnia cupit alterius 
potiri amplexibus et omnia de utriusque voluntate in ipsius amplexu amoris 
praecepta compleri." Andreas, p. 3. 


exist between two people joined together in the conjugal relation." 1 The 
idea is again expressed, on the authority of the same Countess, in the ex- 
cuse which a certain lover offers for seeking love out of wedlock, although 
he has a beautiful wife whom he professes to love " totius mentis affectione 
maritali." 2 In accord with these opinions, and probably based upon them, 
is the first law of the longer code, which frankly states that a woman cannot 
plead marriage as a sufficient excuse for denying a lover's petition. 3 

3. A love, sensual and illicit, must needs be secret. The shorter code 
lays this down as a law ; 4 and the longer adds, as the reason, that a love 
which is divulged, rarely lasts. 5 No article of the code is so important as 
this, and none is insisted upon so much. " Qui non celat, amare non potest." 6 
He who reveals the secrets he should keep, is branded as a traitor to the 
god of Love. Nothing is so despicable as to blab after having received 
favors. But not only must love be secret ; it must also be furtive. It was 
the element of furtiveness, largely, that made the courtly love incompatible 
with the legal relations between husband and wife. The necessity of secrecy 
gives rise in the literature to a constant fear of spies : a fear exaggerated, 
no doubt, but not without foundation, if we may accept the romances as 
reflecting contemporary life. In these stories, it is often the r61e of the 
false steward to spy upon lovers and to report their actions to the lady's 
father or husband. 

There were grounds of a very practical nature for the insistence upon 
secrecy. Chaucer, describing the violation of Lucretia, tells us : 

Thise Remain wyves loveden so hir name 

At thilke tyme, and dredden so the shame, 

That, what for fere of slaundre and drede of deeth, 

She loste bothe at ones wit and breeth, 

And in a swough she lay. 7 

Fear of slander has disturbed the mind of many a woman far less chaste 
than Lucretia. As the Wife of Bath aptly puts it, 

1 " Dicimus enim et stabilito tenore firmamus, amorem non posse suas inter 
duos iugales extendere vires." Andreas, p. 1 53. 

2 Ibid., p. 172. 

8 " Causa coniugii ab amore non est excusatio recta." Ibid., p. 310. 

*"Amoris tui secretaries noli plures habere." Ibid., p. 106. 

6 "Amor raro consuevit durare vulgatus." Ibid., p. 310. Cf. also "Qui 
suum igitur cupit amorem diu retinere illaesum, eum sibi maxime praecavere 
oportet, ut amor extra suos terminos nemini propaletur, sed omnibus reservetur 
occultus." Ibid., p. 238. 

6 Ibid., p. 310. 

7 Legend of Good Women : Lucretia, 11. 133-137. 


" For be we never so vicious withinne, 

We wol been holden wyse, and clene of sinne." 1 

Despite the moral laxness of the society out of which the courtly love grew, 
there were some, perhaps many, to whom its ideas were abhorrent. How- 
ever this may be, the women of that society felt it necessary to protect 
their good name. Chastity might be dispensed with without scruple, but a 
sullied reputation was unbearable. Once the lady had satisfied herself that 
the aspiring lover would be true to her, her greatest fear was that their 
liaison should become known, and that she might be subjected to the 
aspersions of talebearers. 

Another reason for secrecy may be found in the peculiar relations between 
husband and wife among the higher classes of mediaeval society. Marriage 
was rarely a matter in which the heart was concerned. Business affairs and 
political considerations often brought about unions in which no affection 
could exist. 2 Yet the integrity of the tie and the exclusive rights pertaining 
to the married state seem to have been insisted upon by husbands. By the 
theory of courtly love, jealousy could not exist between a man and his 
wife, 3 and since jealousy was a requisite of love, 4 no love could exist be- 
tween them. As a matter of fact, jealous husbands are execrated in love 
poetry from the early carols of the peasant girls of Poitou and Limousin 5 
to Chaucer. Criseyde says : 

" Shal noon housbonde seyn to me ' Chekmat ! ' 
For either they ben ful of jalousye, 
Or maisterful, or loven novelrye." 6 

What action the husband of an unfaithful wife was expected to take, in case 
her infidelity was discovered, we may infer from the summary and severe 
punishment dealt out to such offenders, as it is pictured in romances, ballads, 
and chronicles. 7 Due precaution for the maintenance of strict secrecy would 
therefore be dictated by wisdom and common sense. 

1 Wife of Bath's Tale, 11. 87-89. 

2 Langlois, Origines et Sources du Roman de la Rose, Paris, 1891, p. 3. 

3 Andreas, p. 154. 

4 " Ex vera zelotypia affectus semper crescit amandi." Ibid., p. 154. 

5 Paris, Origines de la Poesie Lyrique en France au Moyen Age, Paris, 1892, p. 5 1 . 

6 Troilus and Criseyde, bk. ii, st. 108. 

7 See the ballad of Sir Aldingar, and the romances The Erl of Tolous and 
Sir Triamour; also the romance of The Knight of Curtesy and the Fair Lady 
of Faguel, The story of the lover's heart being served by the husband to his 
wife while eating, is told also of the troubadour Guillem de Cabestaing ; see 
The Lives of the Troubadours, translated by Ida Farnell, London, 1896, pp. 41 ff. 


4. Love, to meet the requirements of the courtly system, must not be too 
easily obtained! This idea receives great stress because of the lofty posi- 
tion which woman held in the courtly society. The concrete working of 
the rule is seen in the coldness and capriciousness of the lady, which are 
the cause of all the lover's woes as they are pictured in the poetry of the 

We have already observed that courtly love was exalted under 
the system as a virtue which ennobled those who practised the 
art. In theory, love is the fount and origin of every good. 2 It 
is constantly associated in the literature with courtesy and " lar- 
gess." Andreas declares that love is " ever banished from the 
domicile of avarice." 3 In another passage, he states specifically 
that love makes the rude and uncouth excel in every grace ; that 
it enriches those of low birth with real nobility of character; 
and that it makes the true lover show a becoming complaisance 
to all. 4 And then he breaks out rapturously : " O, how wonder- 
ful is love, which causes a man to be effulgent in virtue, and 
teaches every one to abound in good manners! " 5 It was to 
achieve these virtues that the courtly lover sought his lady's 
favor. Strangely enough, the " good " was all on one side. If 
this love was like mercy, which " blesseth him that gives and 
him that takes," it is not so stated in the manual of Andreas. 
This again is due to the high position held by woman in the 
society of the time, and the reverence with which she was 
regarded. From her lofty place, as the perfect being, she dis- 
pensed favors which were at the same time the reward of noble 
deeds and the incentive to further effort. 

It must be noted that the ideals of the courtly system, if we 
disregard the element of sensualism, were high. This was true, 

lw Facilis perceptio contemptibilem reddit amorem, difficilis eum carum 
facit haberi." Andreas, p. 310. 

2 The iteration of this idea in Andreas becomes tiresome. See pp. 29, 63, 
69, 81, 86, 87, 88, 162. 

3 Rule 10, Andreas, p. 310. 4 Andreas, p. 9. 6 Ibid., p. 10. 


not only in matters of decorum, but of honor as well. Constancy 
was of the utmost importance. 1 No more grievous fault could 
be committed, no breach of the canons could be more serious, 
than for a lover, man or woman, to be unfaithful. This idea is 
insistently dwelt upon by Andreas, and it appears conspicuously 
in the other erotic literature of the period and of the following 
centuries. " Supplanting " also was strictly forbidden. 2 To 
choose for his mistress one whom he would be ashamed to 
marry, was thought unworthy of a lover. 3 Though sensual love 
lay at the bottom of the system, voluptuousness was regarded as 
fatal to real love. 4 Indeed, though according to the courtly ideas 
love is in essence sensual, and should be secret and furtive, 
yet it incited the lover to worthy deeds ; it demanded of him 
nobility of character and moderation in all his conduct. It is a 
love evil at the heart of it, yet it is a love which " loses half its 
evil, by losing all its grossness." 

Such was the theory of the courtly- system. For its practical 
side, we turn to the poetry of the troubadours. Inspired, pro- 
fessedly, by real and actual love affairs, their lyrics present the 
concrete workings of the sentiment which afterward became the 
basis of the erotic philosophy not only of Chretien de Troies 
but of Andreas himself. In the poems of the troubadours, there- 
fore, we find portrayed the birth and progress of their love, their 
emotional experiences, their relation and attitude toward the 
ladies whose favor they sought, and their behavior as affected 
by their passion. 

" Nemo duplici potest amore ligari." " Verus amans alterius nisi sui coa- 
mantis ex effectu non cupit amplexus." Rules 3, 12, Andreas, p. 310. Cf. 
Rule 7, same code. 

; " Alterius idonee copulatam amori scienter subvertere non coneris." 
Rule 3, Andreas, p. 106. 

1 " Eius non curis eligere, cum qua naturalis nuptias contrahere prohibit tibi 
pudor." Rule 4, Andreas, p. 106. 

" Non solet amare, quern nimia voluptatis abundantia vexat." Rule 29, 
Andreas, p. 311. Cf. also Rule 8, ibid., p. 106. 


The lady is regularly represented as perfect in all her attri- 
butes. The basis of this idea is, of course, the high social 
position of woman. Her good qualities were doubtless exag- 
gerated, however, because of her rank ; for the poet was often 
politically her subject, as well as her humble lover. Her per- 
fection is pictured in her physical beauty, her character, and 
her influence upon others. Her physical beauty, when portrayed, 
accords with the mediaeval ideal. Her hair is blond or golden ; 
her eyes beautiful ; her complexion fresh and clear ; her mouth 
rosy and smiling ; her flesh white, soft, and smooth ; her body 
slender, well formed, and without blemish. In character, she is 
distinguished for her courtesy, kindness, refinement, and good 
sense. In short, all that makes the perfect woman, in soul or 
in manners, the poet's love possesses. Her influence on others 
is always ennobling. Her goodness affects all who come near 
her, making them better. One poet fondly sings : " There is 
not in the whole world a vile person so ill-bred that he will not 
become courteous, if he speaks a word with her." 1 Another 
declares : " The most ignorant man in the company, when he 
sees and gazes at her, ought at parting to be wise and of fine 
bearing." 2 

As a perfect being, the lady occupies a position of exalted 
superiority in respect to the lover. He becomes her vassal and 

1 Qu' el mon non es vilas tan mal apres, 
Si parP ab lieys un mot, non torn cortes. 

G. de Saint-Didier. 

See Raynouard, Choix des Palsies Originates des Troubadours, Paris, 1816, III, 
301. The translations of the passages from the troubadour lyrics are taken 
from Mr. Mott's work, The System of Courtly Love. 

2 Lo plus nescis horn del renh 
Que la veya ni remir 
Deuria esser al partir 
Savis e de belh captenh. 

Raimond de Miraval, Raynouard, III, 359. 


protests absolute submission and devotion to her. 1 " Good lady," 
begs Bernart de Ventadorn in his humility, " I demand nothing 
more of you than that you take me for a servant, for I will 
serve you as one serves a good master, whatever be my reward." 2 
Even power of life and death is in the lady's hands. The same 
poet says : "In her pleasure may it be, for I am at her mercy : 
if it please her to kill me, I do not complain of it at all." 3 His 
love for her surpasses all other things in value ; the slightest 
token from her makes him rich. " She, whose liegeman I am 
without recall, kills me so sweetly with desire, that she would 
make me rich with a thread of her glove, or with one of the 
hairs that falls on her mantle." 4 The service which he pro- 
fesses is often carried to the extreme of worship, and he adores 
her as a divinity, giving and commending himself to her with 
hands joined and head bowed. 5 

1 This feature, of course, reflects the relation of the contemporary vassal 
to his lord under the feudal system. On the parallels in this poetry between 
the love-service and that of the political vassal, see Wechssler, Frauendienst und 
Vasallitdt (Zeitschrift fur franzosische Sprache und Litteratur, XXIV, 1 59 ff.). 

2 Bona domna, plus no us deman 
Mas que m prendatz per servidor, 
Qu' ie us servirai cum bon senhor, 
Cossi que del guazardon m'an. 

Bernart de Ventadorn, Raynouard, III, 45. 

8 En son plazar sia, 
Qu' ieu sui en sa merce ; 
S'il platz que m'aucia, 
leu no m'en clam de re. Raynouard, III, 64. 

4 Tan belhamen m'aucira deziran 
Selha cui sui hom liges ses revelh, 
Que m fera ric ab un fil de son guan, 
O d'un dels pels que '1 chai sus son mantelh. 

G. de Saint-Didier, Raynouard, III, 300. 

8 Mas juntas, ab cap cle, 
Vos m'autrei e m coman. Raynouard, III, 60. 


The lady rarely appears as a personality in the poetry of the 
troubadours, but remains indistinct in the background. From 
the poet's portrayal of his own feelings, however, her attitude 
toward him is clear enough. We have seen that she possesses 
every good quality ; her kindness, however, the lover seldom 
experiences. To him she is cold, disdainful, capricious, and 
domineering. In vain does he implore pity; in vain does he 
complain of her cruelty and beg for mercy ; her rigor is una- 
bated. This coldness of the lady is the keynote of by far the 
larger part of the poetry which we are now considering. Origi- 
nating in the instinctive hesitancy of the woman to yield too 
easily, it is here exaggerated beyond all naturalness. In later 
erotic literature it becomes a convention and is the motive of 
almost all the love-poetry of France for the next four centuries. 

Nobility of rank was not a requisite in the troubadour-lovers 
of Provence. Poetry seems to have been a common meeting- 
ground for knight and burgher, for prince and peasant. The 
first troubadour whose work is extant is William IX, Count of 
Poitiers. Piere Vidal, one of the most prolific writers, was the 
son of a furrier. Alphonso II of Aragon, one of the great 
rulers of his age, like Richard the Lion-Hearted, was not only 
the friend and patron of the troubadours, but a maker of verses 
himself. Bernart de Ventadorn, who loved and was loved by 
Eleanor of Aquitaine, was " of low degree, son, to wit, of a serv- 
ing man, who gathered brushwood for the heating of the oven 
wherein was baked the castle bread." 1 All who sang of love, 
however, agreed as to the ennobling effect of love on the char- 
acter of the lover. Specifically, because of his love, he becomes 
courteous, gentle, humble, generous, and courageous. As one 
lover proudly says, " Happy is he whom love keeps joyous, for 
love is the climax of all blessings, and through love, one is gay 
and courteous, frank and gentle, humble and proud." 

1 Farnell, The Lives of the Troubadours (translated), London, 1896, p. 27. 


I have spoken of the absolute devotion of the lover to the 
lady, of his service, and his submission to her will. In their 
efforts to emphasize these features of their love and the power 
which that love exerted over them, the troubadours made use of 
as extravagant fancies as their imaginations could invent. The 
effects of love, which Professor Neilson aptly speaks of as 
" symptoms," are described as suffering, or a severe sickness ; 
sleeplessness ; confusion and loss of speech in the lady's 
presence ; trembling and pallor when near the loved one ; fear 
to make an avowal to the lady; and dread of detection by 
others. 1 

Certain other ideas and conceits, though frequent in the 
poetry of the troubadours, are important rather because of the 
elaborate treatment of them by Chretien de Troies. Three 
especially are to be mentioned : the idea that love is caused by 
the beauty of the opposite sex ; the conceit that through the 
eyes, beauty enters the heart, inflicting a wound which only 
the lady can heal ; and the fancy that, though absent from the 
loved one, the lover leaves his heart with her. Because of 
Chretien's subtlety in dealing with these ideas, they may be 
regarded as his particular contribution to the conventional stock. 

The idea that love is caused by beauty is illustrated in the 
Cligh, where Alexander is represented as thinking of the 
charms of Soredamors. " Love pictures to him her beauty, on 

1 The place of secrecy in the courtly system has been noticed in consider- 
ing the work of Andreas. It may be added that secrecy was a quality which 
the troubadour-lovers prized very highly in themselves ; they seldom omit it 
from the list of their virtues, when recommending themselves to their ladies' 
favor. Yet, the maintenance of secrecy was a difficult matter. Slanderers and 
talebearers are constantly execrated. Apparently the talebearer did not con- 
fine himself to mere tattling. Misrepresentation of the lover's actions to the 
lady herself furnished to unscrupulous persons an easy means of " supplanting," 
and the lover sometimes had to warn his lady not to believe such reports. 
Thus Rambaut de Vanqueiras says : w Beautiful worthy lady, courteous and 
well-bred, do not believe calumniators, nor evil-speakers about me, for I am 
constant to you." See Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours, Berlin, 1846, I, 374. 


account of which he feels himself fort grevt. It has robbed 
him of his heart, nor does it allow him to rest in his bed : so 
much is he delighted to remember the beauty and the counte- 
nance of [Soredamors]." 1 

More subtlety is displayed in the poet's use of the second 
idea, in the passage from the same poem where Alexander 
undergoes a rigid self-examination on the manner in which love 
has attacked him. He says : " It has wounded me so severely, 
that even to the heart his (Love's) dart has penetrated. . . . 
How then does it penetrate the body when the wound does not 
appear on the outside ? . . . Through what has it penetrated ? 
Through the eye. Through the eye ? And yet it has not put 
out the eye ? In the eye it has not hurt me at all, but in the 
heart it hurts me grievously. Tell me then : how has the dart 
passed through the eye so that it is neither wounded nor de- 
stroyed ? If the dart enters through the eye, why does the heart 
suffer, and not the eye which received the first blow ? " And 
so he continues to analyze this all-important question until he 
hits upon the explanation that, as the sunlight penetrates glass 
without breaking it, so the light of beauty pierces the eye 
without harming it, and reaches the heart. 2 

Chretien's treatment of the third idea is quite as subtle. 
When Ivain found it necessary to leave Laudine and to accom- 
pany Sir Gawain and the king to Britain, the poet tells us, the 
lover departed from his lady very unwillingly, although his heart 
did not depart from her at all. " The king can take away the 
body, but the heart not a bit ; for it is so joined and holds so 
fast to the heart of her who remains behind, that he has not the 
power to take it. While the body is without the heart, it can in 
no wise live ; and if the body does live without the heart, such a 
wonder no man has ever seen. This wonder has come to pass ; 

1 Chretien de Troies, Cligks, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1910, 11. 618-625. 

2 Ibid., 11. 692 ff. 


for the body [of Ivain] has kept its life without the heart which 
used to be there, and which does not wish to follow it more." : 

The quotations given illustrate the minuteness of Chretien's 
philosophizing on questions of love, and his process of refine- 
ment, which later poets regarded with delight, and which, as far 
as they were able, they imitated in their own work. 

In general, then, we have seen that the ideas of the trouba- 
dours, derived in the main from Ovid, but developed and ex- 
aggerated in the south of France, became in the north the 
principles and requirements of a fixed code. Chretien made 
certain conceits into formal doctrines, which were accepted as 
such by later writers. Still other fancies became rules of con- 
duct in matters of love. The coldness of the lady is reflected in 
Andreas's law : " The easy attainment of love renders it con- 
temptible ; difficult attainment makes it to be held dear." 2 The 
idea of fear in the lady's presence became a philosophical prin- 
ciple: "Amorosus semper est timorosus." 3 The same is true 
of the trembling : "In repentina coamantis visione cor contre- 
mescit amantis." 4 Sleeplessness, at first a result of love, be- 
came a requirement imposed upon lovers : " Minus dormit et 
edit, quern amoris cogitatio vexat." 5 In short, the ideas of the 
troubadour lyrics are the basis of the whole courtly system ; and 
Andreas's book is but a quasi-scientific attempt to reduce to 
laws the practices of the troubadours and other courtly lovers 
of the time. 

Besides the elements thus far treated, which belong to the 
essential theory of courtly love, certain incidental features of the 
courtly literature must be briefly mentioned. A number of con- 
ventional devices were of such frequent occurrence in mediaeval 

1 Chretien, Ivain, ed. W. Forster, Halle, 1906, 11. 2639-2654. 
! " Facilis perceptio contemptibilem reddit amorem, difficilis eum carum facit 
haberi." Andreas, p. 310. 

8 Ibid., p. 311. 4 Ibid., p. 311. 5 Ibid., p. 311. 


love-poetry that they became characteristic of the tradition with 
which this study is concerned. Many erotic poems, for example, 
were cast in the form of dreams or visions, doubtless in imita- 
tion of the apocalyptic writings of the Church. Thus the love- 
vision came to constitute a distinct literary type, and for a long 
time was perhaps the prevailing mode of expression of courtly 
sentiment. Poems of this class commonly tell the story of the 
experience of a hero in the service of love. The events are usually 
assigned to the springtime, in keeping with an old and lasting 
association between love and that season of the year. The hero 
is often conducted by a guide to the god of love, whose habi- 
tation is more or less fully described. Allegorical figures abound, 
exhibiting various phases of love or the virtues and faults of 
lovers ; and the person of the divinity himself is conceived in 
accordance with certain definite traditions. 1 

The personification of love as a god is an inheritance from 
classical times, and a good example may be found in the first 
elegy of Ovid's Amores. The poet, about to sing of " arms and 
the violent wars," is compelled by Cupid to change his subject: 

Questus eram, pharetra cum protinus ille soluta, 

Legit in exitium spicula facta meum, 
Lunavitque genu sinuosum fortiter arcum, 

" Quod " que " canas, vates, accipe " dixit, " opus ! " 
Me miserum ! certas habuit puer ille sagittas : 

Uror, et in vacuo pectore regnat Amor. 2 

Love triumphs over the poet, and he confesses himself van- 
quished : 

Sic erit : haeserunt tenues in corde sagittae, 
Et possessa ferus pectora versat Amor. 8 

1 The love-vision as a literary type is well described and illustrated by 
W. O. Sypherd in his Studies in the "Hous of Fame? Chaucer Society, 1907, 
pp. 6 ff. 

2 Ovid, Amores, i, i, 21-26. 

3 Ibid., i, 2, 7-8. 


This personification of love as a god, with the appurtenances of 
quiver and arrows, is in constant use in the mediaeval love liter- 
ature. The hero of the Pamphilus de Amore, 1 which is in the 
spirit of Ovid throughout, suffers from a wound inflicted by the 
god's arrows. It is a shot from his bow that brings Chretien's 
hero, Alexander, low. Yvain, too, is a victim of the deadly dart. 
Without the accompaniment of his weapons, Love is frequently 
depicted as an all-powerful deity, to express the idea that to all 
suitable young persons love is not only a duty, but a fate which 
they cannot escape. In the early poetry of the troubadours, Love 
is a goddess whose power is irresistible, whose command is law 
to the lover, who at times is cruel, at others, neglectful of her 
servants. Bernart de Ventadorn sings : " I have no power at 
all that can defend me against Love ; . . . when I think to free 
myself, I cannot, for Love holds me." 2 He says of himself, 
" I alas ! whom Love forgets," 3 and addresses" the cruel goddess 
thus : " Whatever you command me to do, I shall do, for so it 
is fitting, but you do not well always to make me suffer." 4 
Chretien also personifies love to express the same idea of a 
resistless god. Soredamors is helpless in his hands ; against 
Love she thinks to defend herself, but it is useless. 5 He brings 
her to grief and avenges himself upon her for her great pride 
and indifference. 6 

1 Ed. by A. Baudoin, Paris, 1874. 

2 Mas ieu non ai ges poder 

Que m puesca d'amor defendre ; . . . 

Ans quant ieu m'en cug estraire 

No pues ges, qu' amors mi te. Raynouard, III, p. 47. 

3 Ieu las! cui amors oblida . . . Ibid., Ill, p. 91. 

4 Que que m comandetz a faire 
Farai, qu' en aissi s cove, 
Mas vos non o faitz ges be 

Que m fassatz tot jorn maltraire. Ibid., p. 47. 

5 Chretien, Cligis> 11. 528-529. 6 Ibid., 11. 456-459. 


The classical conception of the god of Love is still familiar 
in literature. In mediaeval writings, however, the deity often 
took on special characteristics borrowed from the religious con- 
ditions of the time. Thus in the Concile de Remiremont^ a 
Latin poem of the twelfth century, a council is assembled by 
one who acts under the commands of the god of Love. Its 
members are all enlisted in his service, and they regulate their 
lives in accordance with his precepts and wishes. The meeting 
is opened with a ceremony of worship ; but the form of pro- 
cedure is clearly borrowed from the service of the Church, and 
is inconsistent with the worship paid to a heathen divinity. The 
Concile is representative of a large class of erotic literature in 
which a systematic religion of love is set forth, modelled on that 
of the Church. The New Jerusalem of the Apocalypse became 
the Paradise in which dwelt the god of Love, and in which were 
reserved places for his disciples. There was also a Purgatory 
where those who refused to bow to his commands were punished. 
In the book of Andreas, both these places are elaborately de- 
scribed. 2 The new religious system had its gospel, its com- 
mandments, its apostles and teachers ; examples of the two 
former we have seen in the codes of Andreas's book. In short, 
adaptations of all the important features of the mediaeval 
Christian worship may be found in the erotic literature of the 
time. 3 

Alongside the conception of the god of Love just noticed, 
there appears another in which the characteristics of the deity 
reflected rather social than religious conditions. To him were 
given the attributes of a feudal lord, to whom, as to their chief, 
lovers swear loyalty and obedience. In return for faithful serv- 
ice, the god, who now often becomes a king, acts as their pro- 
tector and has at heart the welfare of his vassals. Disputes are 

1 Printed by G. Waitz in Zeitschrift fur deutsches Alterthum, VII, 160 ff. 

2 Andreas, pp. 91 ff. 3 Langlois, Origines, pp. 220 ff. 


carried to him for arbitration ; and in his court, surrounded by 
his barons, he administers justice. This conception of the god 
of Love was well known to Chretien. Alexander remarks : "A 
servant ought to tremble with fear when his lord calls him or 
sends for him. And whoever commends himself to Love, makes 
him his lord and master, and it is right that such a one hold 
him in reverence and fear him and honor him much, if he 
indeed wishes to be of his court." l The same ideas appear in 
varying degrees in many documents of the period. In the Old 
French Florance and Blancheflor? in particular, the feudal 
character of the god is made prominent. He here becomes a 
king, with a court of bird-barons, to whom a case is referred for 
settlement. The " inconsistency in the use of ' king or god,' " as 
Professor Neilson has remarked with reference to this poem, 
" . . . is suggestive of the process by which the classical divine 
court took on a feudal character. The birds are just about to be 
brought in, not merely as attendants on the god of Love, but as 
barons with deliberating power, and almost unconsciously, it 
might seem, the poet begins to speak of a king instead of a 
god." 3 An interesting example of the same process is also 
furnished by two other French pieces, Li Fablel dou Dieu 
d' Amours 4 and Vemis la Deesse d 'Amour? which are in reality 
only different versions of a single story. In the former, there 
is no suggestion of the judicial character of the god ; he is 
simply the classical divinity who comes to the aid of one of his 
worshippers in trouble. In Venus la Deesse, his role as judge 
is brought out with distinctness and in detail. He holds his 
court, before which the case of the lover is argued, and renders 
the decision which restores to the hero his lady. 

1 Chretien, Cligts, 11. 3879-3892. 

2 Barbazan et Meon, Fabliaux et Contes, Paris, 1808, IV, 354-365. 
8 Neilson, Origins, p. 38. 

* Ed. by A. Jubinal, Paris, 1834. 
6 Ed. by W. Forster, Bonn, 1880. 


In the consideration of the love deity in the literature which 
it is the purpose of this study to examine, the three conceptions 
pointed out in the preceding paragraphs will be distinguished 
by the terms " classical," " ecclesiastical," and " feudal." It is 
clear, however, that, since the classical deity took on the pecul- 
iar attributes consistent with the ecclesiastical and feudal con- 
ceptions, there may appear a blending of the classical with the 
ecclesiastical, or of the classical with the feudal. In any given 
case where the nature of such added features is clear, the term 
"ecclesiastical" or "feudal" will be used: the former, when 
the religion of the deity in question reflects some phase of the 
Christian religion or of the worship of the mediaeval Church ; 
the latter, when the deity exercises the powers of a feudal lord 
whom the lover serves in the capacity of a vassal or a subject. 
The term " classical " will be reserved for those cases in which 
the deity appears with the characteristics given him in the 
classical literature, but without any of the attributes peculiar to 
either the feudal or the ecclesiastical conception. 

Care has here been taken to employ the word " deity " or 
" divinity," because, instead of a god, or along with him, a 
goddess often appears, to whom is attributed the same power 
and authority. Venus as the goddess of Love is frequently 
found with Cupid the god of Love, as was seen in Venus la 
Deesse. Often she appears alone, either as the goddess or as 
the queen of Love. In general, poets do not consistently dis- 
criminate between Venus and Cupid as the love deity. 



In the foregoing chapter have been presented the principles 
of the courtly love system, with some illustrations of its treat- 
ment in literature. It has been shown that the conduct of lovers 
was prescribed by laws which arose from conventionalizing real 
and spontaneous, although exaggerated, sentiments of the poets ; 
the personification of love appearing in the erotic literature has 
been noted ; and attention has been called to certain forms in 
which a large class of the love-poetry was cast. All these ideas 
and characteristics appear, in one way or another, in Guillaume 
de Lorris's part of the Romance of the Rose, the most important 
French love document of mediaeval times. Although it was 
written to delight its readers by the story of the author's love 
affair, one important purpose, hinted at by the poet in the 
familiar lines, Q ^ ]e Roman de ]a Rose 

Ou 1'art d'amour est tote enclose, 

entitles it to be considered, as Paris calls it, "un veritable 
Art d" Amour" l The character of the work, therefore, and also 
the influence it exerted upon later literature in both French and 
English make a rather full summary of its contents desirable at 
this point. 

The Romance of the Rose 2 is the story of a dream of a young 
man of twenty years. He rises on a May morning and goes 

1 Paris, La. Lift. Fr, au M. A., p. 178. 

2 The quotations are from the Middle English translation of the Romance, 
and from the French edition of P. Marteau, Orleans, 1878. 



out to hear the songs of the birds. He wanders over a lovely 
meadow watered by a river. Following the course of the stream, 
he sees before him a high wall, which encloses a spacious 
garden. He draws closer and sees painted on the outside of the 
wall ten hideous figures of Haine, Felonie, Vilennie, Couvitise, 
Avarice, Envie, Tristesse, Viellesse, Papelardie, and Poverte. 
/ j As he contemplates these paintings, he longs to enter the 
garden. Finally he knocks boldly at a small wicket in the wall, 
and is admitted by a charming maiden called Oyseuse. She tells 
him that she is the friend of Deduit, the master of the garden, 
who has just now come thither with his companions to enjoy 
the beauties of the place and to hear the music of the birds. 

The hero greatly desires to see Deduit, and follows a little 
path until he comes upon him and his merry companions danc- 
ing. In the party are the god of Love and his squire, Dous- 
Regard, who carries two bows, the one crooked and gnarled, the 
other well shaped and finely carved. He also has two quivers, 
the one containing five beautiful gold-tipped arrows, the other 
as many which are hideous to behold. Courtoisie, who is of the 
god's party, perceives the hero, and invites him to take part in 
the dance, which he gladly does. The dance over, the company 
disbands, and the hero continues his wanderings. 

As he walks along he is aware that he is being followed by 
the god of Love, who holds the fair bow and the five golden 
arrows. He is fearful lest the arrows are intended for him, but 
he keeps on his way until he comes to a marble fountain, on 
the border of which he sees the inscription : " Here died the 
beautiful Narcissus." In the waters of the fountain are reflected 
all the wonders of the garden. He especially admires, however, 
a magnificent bush of roses, one of which, more lovely than 
all the rest, he desires to pluck. While he is contemplating 
the beauty of the rose, the god approaches and, drawing his 
bow, shoots the arrow Biaute, piercing the lover's eye. He 


immediately draws again, and shoots in rapid succession the other 
four darts, Simplece, Franchise, Compaignie, and Biau-Semblant. 
The god now tells him that all resistance is vain, and advises 
him to acknowledge his conqueror for his lord and master. To 
this the lover agrees, and offers, in token of submission, to kiss 
the god's feet ; but he is graciously allowed to kiss his lips 
instead. Thus the hero becomes Love's vassal. After receiving 
from him assurances of his submission, Cupid proceeds to lay 
down his commandments and to teach him all the art of love. 
He shows all the joys, sorrows, and perils that a servant of Love 
must experience. The courage of the lover is somewhat dashed 
at this recital ; but the god reassures him by telling him that 
the hope of winning his lady will sustain him in his trials, and 
he promises to leave with his new disciple three comforters, 
Dous-Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard, who will bring 
him consolation if he but remain faithful. Having completed 
his instructions, the god leaves him alone. 

The lover now desires above everything else to possess the 
Rose. But it is surrounded by a hedge, and his efforts to sur- 
mount the barrier would be vain. At this juncture, he sees 
a youth coming, Bel-Acueil, who offers to assist him over the 
hedge and to lead him to the Rose. He accepts the offer ; but 
he perceives that the tree is guarded by the sleeping Dangier 
and his companions Male-Bouche, Honte, and Paor. The lover 
attempts to pluck the Rose, but Dangier suddenly awakes and 
drives both Bel-Acueil and him from the enclosure. While he 
wanders about the garden in despair, Raison approaches and 
advises him to give up the folly of love. He rejects this advice, 
however, and goes in search of Ami, to whom he confides his 
grief. Ami comforts him by telling him that Dangier is not 
so terrible as he seems ; a little flattery will overcome his harsh- 
ness and enable the lover to see his Rose again. The lover 
follows Ami's advice, and is successful in appeasing the anger 


of his enemy. Bel-Acueil now returns and leads the lover into 
the enclosure, where he is permitted to kiss the Rose. But 
Male-Bouche and Honte are watching, and they arouse Jalousie, 
who builds a high tower, in which he shuts up Bel-Acueil after 
soundly berating him. He places as guards at the tower, Paor, 
Dangier, and Male-Bouche. The lover weeps at the loss of 
his friend ; in the midst of his plaints, the story breaks off. 

The form of the Romance is that of the love-vision. It has 
several of the features already noted as characteristic of the 
type : the story is in the dream setting ; the time is May ; the 
place, a meadow with the usual abundance of flowers and of 
trees filled with singing birds ; the narrative is the experience 
of a servant of Love, at least, of one who in the story becomes 
his servant. Love himself, who is often represented in the 
vision-poems as enthroned in a gorgeous palace, here follows 
the hero in his wanderings about the garden. For the author's 
purpose is to tell of his own subjugation by means of the gold- 
tipped arrows, and there would have been an incongruity in the 
god's discharging the arrows from his throne. But in spite of 
the change of situation, the three usual conceptions of the love 
deity all appear clearly in the Romance. 

In his first appearance to the hero, Love is the classical god, 
with his quivers and arrows. Guillaume de Lorris has employed 
the Ovidian fancy of giving two kinds of arrows to the god, 1 but 
he has elaborated it, as indeed he has most of the ideas which 
he borrowed. 

In his encounter with the lover, the feudal characteristics of 
the god are brought out clearly. In order to vanquish the hero, 
he discharges the gold-tipped arrows in rapid succession, in 
accordance with the classical conception. But the figure then 
changes, as is shown in the god's demand that the lover do him 
homage (1. 1998), and later, that he give him hostages (11. 2043 ff.). 

1 Neilson, p. 54. 


The lover gives himself to the god's service (11. 1947, 2 105, 2 1 1 5, 
2130) ; puts his life and death into Cupid's hands ; binds himself 
to the god (11. 1955-1956) ; offers to kiss the god's feet (1. 1981); 
and becomes, in the technical sense, his "man" (1. 2035). 

Though the ecclesiastical conception is not so prominent as 
the feudal, traces of it are seen in the general idea of giving 
commandments to the lover ; in the idea of sin against the 
god, appearing in the lines : 

In thank thy servis wol I take, 
And high of gree I wol thee make, 
If wikkednesse ne hindre thee ; 

in the reference to the god's power to curse : 

I curse and blame generally 
Alle hem that loven vilany ; 

and in the god's imposing penance upon the lover : 

First I joyne thee, here in penaunce, . . . 
Thou set thy thought in thy loving. 

The personification of carnal love as Venus should be noted. 
This is seen in the passage where she is described as always 
making war on chastity (1. 3699), and where she inflames Bel- 
Acueil with her blazing brand, and thus secures for the lover 
the coveted privilege of kissing the Rose (11. 3697-3757). 

Two methods are employed by the author to set forth the art 
of love : direct instruction given by the god, and the use of per- 
sonified abstractions. As the personifications do little more than 
elaborate certain features of the formal doctrine, the interview 
of the god with the lover is of chief importance as a statement 
Of the author's ideas. 

The god's instructions, after he has received the lover's 
homage, may be divided into two parts : the first dealing with 
the personal qualities a lover should have ; the second portray- 
ing his pains and pleasures. The commands, coming under the 
first head, are : 


1. Leave villainy. 

Vilany at the begining, 
I wol, sayd Love, over alle thing, 
Thou leve, if thou wolt not be 
Fals, and trespasse agaynes me. 

" Villainy," in the Old French poetry, was a blanket word used 
to cover the undesirable qualities a knight or lover should not 
have. 1 As the god says, " vilayns arn without pitee, friendship, 
love, and all bountee." After issuing this general order the god 
mentions two of the specific faults which, coming under the 
head of " villainy," the lover must avoid : speaking evil (11. 2203- 
2215), and speaking words of ribaldry (11. 2223-2228). He also 
mentions some specific virtues, which, as a courteous gentleman, 
the lover would be expected to practise : to salute those whom he 
meets (11. 2216-2222) ; to serve and honor all women ; to de- 
fend their good names and endeavor to please them, that they 
may be well disposed toward him (11. 2229-2238). 

2. Keep yourself from pride ; 

For pryde is founde, in every part, 
Contrarie unto Loves art. 

But the god reminds the lover that to dress well is not pride ; 

For fresh array, as men may see, 
Withouten pryde may ofte be. 

Therefore he commands him to array himself with elegance ; to 
live within his income, but to have his raiment in good style 
and always becoming (11. 2255-2274). He further instructs the 
lover as to neatness and cleanliness of person : to keep his 
hands, teeth, and nails clean ; to keep his hair combed. The 
influence of Ovid is clearly seen in the instructions in regard 
to cleanliness and neatness. 2 

1 S. L. Galpin, Cortois and Vilain, New Haven, 1905, pp. 95-96. 
z Ovid, Ars Amatoria, i, 505-524. 


3. Be as merry and joyful as possible. 

Love hath no joye of sorrowful man. 

The more detailed instruction is, to be ready to entertain others 
with his accomplishments of riding, feats of arms, singing, 
playing on instruments, dancing, or whatever they may be 
(11. 2305-2324) ; also to make songs and complaints for his 
lady's sake, in order that she may be moved to pity his pain 
(11. 2325-2328). 

4. Be generous in giving and spending. Here may be in- 
cluded the later advice of the god, to give gifts freely to the 
lady's maid and to her other servants (11. 2695-2716), which 
is taken from Ovid. 1 

These commands are all summed up " in wordes fewe com- 

Who so with love wol goon or ryde 
He mot be curteys and void of pryde, 
Mery and fulle of jolite 
And of largesse alosed be. 

As a penance the lover is enjoined to set his thought on loving 
without repentance, and to think upon future happiness, which 
shall come when he meets his lady (11. 2355-2360). This idea 
is elaborated in the personification of Dous-Penser : 

Thought in absence is good to thee, 
It maketh lovers have remembrance 
Of comfort, and of high plesaunce, 
That Hope hath hight him for to winne. 

Dous-Penser shall bring before him, as in a mirror, all the 
physical charms of his lady, and so shall not only assuage the 
pains of love, but double the joys. 2 

1 Ars Amatoria, i, 351-374. 

2 Cf. also : 

And thogh thou go, yet must thee nede 
Thenke al-day on hir fairhede (11. 2483-2484). 


5. To these commands the god adds a fifth, which is 
concerned with the relation of the lover to his lady : 

I wol and eek thee, 
That in oo place thou sette, al hool, 
Thyn herte, withouten halfen dool 
For trecherie, in sikernesse. 

That is, he enjoins upon the lover constancy. The qualities 
which the god demands in his servant are : courtesy, humility, 
gaiety, generosity, and constancy. With the exception of gaiety, 
these are the cardinal virtues of the courtly lover, as we have 
seen them in the work of Andreas Capellanus. 

The god now proceeds to lay before the lover the pains and 
pleasures which are inseparable from his service. In doing this, 
he enumerates the conventional symptoms of love, which have 
become established as principles firmly enough to be put in the 
form of injunctions : 

1. He must keep in solitude, in order to hide from others 
his love sorrows (11. 2390-2396). 

2. He must suffer changes of temperature, alternate heat and 
cold (11. 2397-2402). 

3. He must often forget himself utterly, and be dumb and 
motionless (11. 2403-2418). 

4. He must be restless and ill at ease when absent from his 
lady (11. 2419-2452). 

5. He must have an insatiable longing for a sight of his lady 
(11. 2453-2482). 

The idea of this observation is elaborated in the use of the 
personification Dous- Regard, one of the three comforters whom 
the god promises to the lover. In speaking of him Cupid 
repeats substantially the same admonition that he gives here : 

Wherfore thou prese alwey to be 
In place, where thou mayst hir se. 
For it is thing most amerous, 
Most delitable and saverous, 


For to aswage a mannes sorowe, 

To sene his lady by the morowe. 

For it is a ful noble thing 

Whan thyn eyen have meting 

With that relyke precious, 

Wherof they be so desirous. . . . 

For than the herte is al at ese, 

Whan they seen that [that] may hem plese. 

6. He must reproach himself for having been too timid to 
tell his lady of his love when opportunity presented itself 
(11. 2483-2502). 

7. He must find occasion to be near the lady's abode ; but 
he must go and come secretly (11. 2503-2522). 

8. He must become pale, tremble, and lose his speech in 
the lady's presence (11. 2523-2552). 

9. He must be sleepless and suffer agonies at night (11. 2 5 5 3- 

10. He must dream of happiness with her, and awake in 
sorrow to find it but a dream (11. 2568-2640). 

11. He must go secretly and early to her house, no matter 
how bad the weather (11. 2641-2680). 

12. He must grow lean and pale (11. 2681-2694). 

One of the most important principles of the courtly love, as 
given by Andreas, is not made the subject of especial command 
by Guillaume de Lorris : this is the necessity of secrecy. The 
idea is brought out, however, in connection with several of the 
symptoms of love just enumerated, and also in the god's advice 
to the lover to choose a discreet confidant (1. 2856). 

The idea of laying down a set of laws for observance by the 
lover was borrowed by Guillaume from Andreas Capellanus, 1 
and his precepts, so far as they correspond to those of Andreas, 
need only to be mentioned. A good number of the doctrines of 
the courtly love, as set forth by Andreas in form of statutes, are 

1 Paris, La Lit. Fr. au M. A., p. 180. 


found in the Romance in other forms. The doctrine that love, 
to be prized, should not be too easily obtained, 1 is stated by 

the god : 

Freend, by the feith I owe to thee, 

May no man have good, but he it by. 

A man loveth more tendirly 

The thing that he hath bought most dere. 

For wite thou wel, withouten were, 

In thank that thing is taken more, 

For which a man hath suffred sore. 

The possession of a confidant which is implied in Andreas's 
law, "Amoris tui secretarios noli plures habere," 2 and which 
indeed was often a necessity in the real life of courtly lovers, is 
strongly advised by the god in the Romance, in his promise of 
Dous-Parler to the lover : 

Therefore I rede thee that thou get 
A felowe that can wel concele 
And kepe thy counsel, and wel hele, 
To whom go shewe hoolly thyn herte, 
Bothe wele and wo, joye and smerte. 

" For it is a noble thing," he says, " to have a man thou darst 
say thy prive counsel." From this friend the lover can seek 
comfort, and with him he can talk of the pains and joys of his 
love. The idea is further carried out by the use of the person- 
ification Ami, who advises the lover in his time of need. 

The ideas which have been noted as the especial favorites of 
Chretien de Troies, and which he developed with such minute- 
ness, are also present in the Romance. Beauty was the first 
arrow which the god shot at the hero, and piercing his eye the 
point remained in his heart, inflicting a wound which was curable 
only by the lady whose beauty was the cause. The conceit of 
sending the heart to the lady appears in the lover's complaint : 

1 Andreas, Long Code, Rule 14, p. 311. 

2 Andreas, p. 106. 


And if such cause thou have, that thee 
Bihoveth gon out of contree, 
Leve hool thyn herte in hostage, 
Til thou ageyn make thy passage. 

And again, 

God what may this be, 
That I ne may my lady see? 
Myn herte aloon is to her go, 
And I abyde al sole in wo, 
Departed from myn owne thought 
And with myne eyen see right nought. 

Something like Chretien's subtlety in treating the heart and 
eyes appears in the passage which sets forth the virtues of 

Dous-Regard : 

For whan thyn eyen were thus in blis, 
Yit of hir curtesye, y-wis, 
Aloon they can not have hir joye, 
But to the herte they [it] convoye ; 
Part of hir blis to him they sende, 
Of al this harm to make an ende. 
The eye is a good messangere, 
Which can to the herte in such manere 
Tidyngis sende, that [he] hath seen, 
To voide him of his peynes cleen. 

The position of the lady with respect to the lover, in the sys- 
tem of love which the god expounds to the hero, is clearly that 
which we have already seen in the troubadours' poetry. The 
lover's attitude of humility before her, his preference for one 
smile of hers to having 

al utterly 
Of another al hool the pley, 

his longing for her favor, his confusion, loss of speech and 
memory, and trembling in her presence, his complete devotion 
to her all these are present in the god's exposition of love. 
In the development of the poet's own love story, the idea of the 


lady's exalted position does not seem to be carried out. Trans- 
lated into plain language, the elaborate allegory of the Romance 
becomes a simple tale. The lover " has beheld his beautiful lady 
and been charmed by her beauty, her grace, her courtesy ; she 
has received him with gentleness, but when he declares his love, 
she grows alarmed. He gains at last the kiss which tells of her 
affection ; but her parents, intervening, throw obstacles between 
the lovers." 1 This gives a hint of the difference which must 
have obtained often between the theory and practice of courtly 
love. However much the art taught the lover to tremble 
and to be confused in the presence of his mistress, the under- 
lying meaning of the allegory shows that she was not cold and 
disdainful, that she was not moved by the lover's passion only. 
Measures of prudence on her part, and precautions taken by 
her parents, were the influences which restrained her from 
granting her favor to the lover, when asked. 

The sensual element in the Romance is minimized. The 
thought of marriage, it is true, does not enter the mind of the 
author ; in this the work is in accord with the courtly ideas of 
the time of Marie of Champagne. But the love here is not 
avowedly sensual, though indications of its carnal nature are not 
wanting. 2 Such indications, however, are little more than hints. 
Very little that is gross can be found in the work. Written for 
the diversion of the aristocratic circle, 3 in its delicacy, refine- 
ment, and gentleness of sentiment, the Romance admirably rep- 
resents the side of mediaeval society to which it was addressed. 4 

1 Dowden, A History of French Literature, New York, 1903, p. 35. 

2 Tex fois sera qu'il t'iert avis 
Que tu tendras cele au cler vis 
Entre tes bras tretoute nue, 
Ausinc cum s'el ert devenue 
Du tout t'amie et ta compaignie (11. 2525-2529). 

8 See 1. 34 : For vos cuers plus fere esgaier. 
4 Paris, La Lit. Fr. au M. A., p. 182. 


But it was written at a time when the courtly love ideas, as ex- 
pressed in the romance of love and adventure, had reached their 
full development ; when, as has been seen, all spontaneity had 
ceased, and the desire to codify knowledge, present in all fields 
of learning, was displayed also in the work of erotic writers. 
Viewed as an art of love, the Romance of the Rose, therefore, 
may be considered as culminative, in the sense that it brings 
to completion sentiments before prominent in the literature, 
that, if not the last, it is the best, example in poetry of the codi- 
fying process which found its expression in prose in the work 
of Andreas Capellanus. 

The successors of Lords in French poetry were long domi- 
nated by his influence, and the Romance of the Rose thus 
perpetuated the use of conventions which were already worn 
threadbare before it was written. Throughout the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries love-visions and love-lyrics in various forms 
were widely composed ; love-allegory was enormously cultivated ; 
and a vast mass of insipid, conventional verse, devoid of real 
sentiment or passion, was the result. It would not be profitable 
to examine this literature here at any length. Such a study 
would serve only to multiply examples of the ideas and devices 
of which we have noted the origin in earlier writers, and of 
which we shall later see masterly use in the hands of Chaucer. 
It is important, however, to observe that the courtly tradition 
was well represented by several poets Machaut, Deschamps, 
Froissart, and Granson by whom Chaucer was certainly influ- 
enced, 1 and who must have been well known to Gower. None 
of these later French writers adds anything really new to the 
courtly theory. They all praise the same beauties, inculcate the 

1 Recent research shows that Chaucer's relation to these writers was much 
closer than was formerly suspected. See the Chaucer Manual of Miss Ham- 
mond, under the authors named ; and cf . Modern Philology, I, i ff. ; VII, 465 ff. ; 
VIII, 165 ff. ; and Modern Language Review, Jan. 1910, pp. 33 ff. 


same virtues, and sing the same familiar joys and sorrows. In 
the course of time they perhaps develop greater ingenuity in 
their allegory, and achieve a finer grace of style and metrical 
form. A kind of originality, too, is claimed for Machaut by 
virtue of the personal tone which he introduces into his erotic 
writings, though it is doubtful how far they are descriptiv3 of 
actual experience. 1 But on the whole the courtly system of this 
later generation differs little from that of the age of Marie de 
Champagne. The love they celebrate, like that of their prede- 
cessors, is illicit and sensual at bottom, although described 
mostly with refinement or restraint. It is therefore still con- 
demned by the Church, and various documents of the time 
contrast it with the higher love of conjugal life. 2 But that the 
courtly sentiment itself was sometimes capable of purity and 
elevation is shown by an important work of Chaucer's own life- 
time, with which we may properly conclude our discussion of 
his French predecessors. 

Les Cent Balades^ written by Jean le Seneschal and several 
of his friends in 1389, has been described as a " vrai bouquet de 
grace et de courtoisie, dernier sourire de la societe chevale- 
resque." 4 It tells of a young man, himself a lover, who receives 
from an old knight advice as to how to conduct himself in his 
love. The knight, who when young had been endowed by the 

1 See the (Euvres de Guillaume de Machaut, ed. E. Hopffner, for the 
Societe des Anciens Textes Fran^ais, Paris, 1908, Introduction, p. ii ; Chich- 
maref's edition of the Pohies Lyriques of Machaut, Paris, 1909, Introduction, 
p. Ixvii; and Hanf, Zeitschrift fur Romanische Philologie, XXII, 195- Com- 
pare also the remarks on autobiographical material in the love-poems of 
Chaucer and Gower, p. ioo,n., below. 

2 Compare, for example, the Chastiement des Dames of Robert de Blois, 
published in Barbazan's Fabliaux et Contes, II, 184 ff. ; and the Book of the 
Knight of La Tour Landry, ed. Thomas Wright for the Early English Text 
Society, rev. ed., 1906. 

3 Ed. by G. Raynaud, for the Societe des Anciens Textes Fra^ais, 1905. 

4 G. Paris, La Poesie dit Moyen Age, Second Series, p. 229. 


god of Love with the gifts Doulce Pensee, Plaisance, Amoureux 
Desir, and Esperance, relates how he had given his heart wholly 
to the best and fairest lady in the world, and how life had been 
beautiful to him ever since. This great happiness had come to 
him because he faithfully performed the commands of Love 
and had remained loyal to his lady. Loyalty always brings such 
rewards. The knight dwells at length on the effect wrought by 
true love on the character of a lover ; and he warns the youth 
of the evil consequences of disloyalty and pretense. The young 
lover thanks him for his good counsel, and declares that his 
desire is always to be loyal and true. 

Not long after this, the lover happens to be near a company 
of " gracious and pleasing folk," in a garden bordering upon 
the river Loire. He does not speak to them, but keeps himself 
apart, his eyes upon the water, his thoughts upon his love. 
While he is standing there, one of the ladies in the merry com- 
pany approaches him, and asks if he is in the service of the 
god of Love. Upon his replying that he is, she volunteers to 
give him some advice, by following which he will be happy and 
joyous. " Certainly," she says, upon hearing his determination 
to remain loyal to his lady, "you have need of counsel; for 
now I see that you will never obtain the great good which you 
desire. I pray you, do not persist in this foolish thought." Her 
good counsel is to this effect : Look to the good things in 
love : declare your passion to your lady, and if then you can 
come to your " fait," good ; if not, do not be so much hers that 
you take no account of others. Do not let love overcome you. 
If love of your lady grows in your heart so that she holds you 
entirely in her "danger," you had better be dead. Throw off 
your bonds, and divide your attentions. Only, work secretly. 
This is all the loyalty you need observe. Always see how your 
"fait" can be accomplished before you ask. Conduct yourself 
humbly among the ladies ; serve each one, praise their deeds 


and their beauty. If one receives your "raison" favorably, 
accomplish your desire quickly. 

Vent au faucon, vent au heron ! 

The fair ones you entreat, pursue humbly to the end, and you 
will succeed. Solicit them morn and even, day and night. Let 
no long interval go by without entreating them. Be quiet ; say 
nothing of yourself, and speak no evil of another. But swear 
no vows unless you must. If one repulses you, ask her pardon. 
Tell her she is so beautiful and good that you must love her 
whether you will or not ; it is no use to strive against it. Then 
embrace her secretly. If she takes it ill, she is too nice, or 
wishes to play the wise woman. To love is natural : keep it 
up ; the ladies will give in. Though you have your troubles, 
you will obtain your desires in the long run. 

The young lover still persists in his determination to remain 
faithful ; and so they decide to submit to all lovers the question : 
Which brings the more joy in love, to maintain loyalty or to 
practice falsity ? The book ends with thirteen balades, which 
are given in reply to the question by different knights. Some 
are favorable to the lady, but most of them agree with the old 
knight in advocating loyalty. 

"In this book, we have very clearly opposed two different 
kinds of love, of both of which we have had abundant indications 
in the two preceding centuries. . . . That of the lady is the 
old attitude which is most clearly represented by Ovid and his 
mediaeval imitators, with some of the grossness left out, but with 
an essentially immoral element at the heart of it. It is lower 
than the usual troubadour ideal, inasmuch as that made much 
of the virtue of loyalty to one woman at a time. That of the 
old knight, on the other hand, is loftier than the troubadour's, 
since it is clearly honorable love with a view to marriage, which 
he recommends and praises. It includes all the noble attributes 


of the mediaeval * gentle ' knight, and all the reverential devo- 
tion to woman which characterizes the chivalrous youth of all 
times. It is, on the whole, the finest ideal to be found in the 
. . . twelfth, thirteenth, or fourteenth century." l 

1 Neilson, Origins, p. 198. I cannot see, as Professor Neilson does, any- 
thing in the knight's remarks to indicate that the love of which he speaks 
leads to marriage. His ideal in this respect is no higher, for instance, than 
that of the knight in Machaut's Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, in which 
there is nothing to indicate that marriage is the end of the love discussed. 
Notwithstanding this, the tone of all the knight's considerations in Les Cent 
Balades is a very lofty one ; and the words quoted above, with the exception 
noted, fittingly characterize the love-element in the work. 




In the Miroiir de rOmme, Gower's great moral work, occur 

Jadis trestout m'abandonoie 
Au fol delit et veine joye ; 
Dont ma vesture desguisay 
Et les fols ditz d'amours fesoie, 
Dont en chantant je carolloie. 1 

Only two, however, of the poet's extant works are devoted to 
love, the Cinkante Balades (in French) and the English Con- 
fessio Amantis. We have no way of knowing whether or not 
the "fols ditz " of the lines quoted comprise a part of the Cin- 
kante Balades. But it is probable that the collection contains 
poems written at various times throughout the poet's life, and 
selected and arranged by him on the occasion of presenting 
the book to Henry IV for the entertainment of the court. 2 The 
Confessio Amantis, as the author tells us, was composed at the 
command of King Richard II, who, in asking the poet to write 
something new, furnished the theme and promised to accept 
and read the book when finished. 8 The date of the poem in its 
earliest form has been placed at 1 3QO. 4 

1 Mirour de FOmme, 11. 27337-27341. The references are to The Works of 
John Gower, ed. G. C. Macaulay, Oxford, 1899. 

2 Kittredge, The Date of Chaucer's Troilus, Chaucer Society Publications, 
1909, Appendix IV, p. 76. Note the poet's Dedication to the King, ii, st. 4 : 

O noble Henri, . . . 

For desporter vo noble court roial 

Jeo frai balade. 

8 Prologue to Confessio Amantis, First Version, 11. 51-53. 
4 Works, II, xxi. 




The Cinkante Balades have been roughly divided by their 
author into two parts. The first division includes Balades 15, 
which are made especially for those who expect their love affairs 
to be perfected in marriage. 1 They are addressed to ladies, and 
express the happiness of the accepted lover, his vows of con- 
tinued service, loyalty, and truth. The remainder of the fifty- 
one (there are fifty-one instead of fifty, as the title indicates) 
are " universal," and set forth the feelings of lovers in general, 
whether the course of their love runs smooth or not. 2 The 
second group may be further divided as follows : 

1. Balades 6-40, 45, 47, are addressed by lovers to their 
ladies. Of these, numbers thirty-two to thirty-seven are expres- 
sions of devotion intended for certain occasions of the year : 
numbers thirty-two and thirty-three for the New Year, thirty- 
four and thirty-five for Saint Valentine's Day, thirty-six and 
thirty-seven for May Day. All except number forty are of the 
same nature : the lover complains of the lady's indifference and 
of his own woes, assures her of his desire to serve her, and 
begs for her favor. In number forty, the lover takes the lady 
to task for her fickleness. 

2. Balades 41-44, 46, are addressed by ladies to their lovers. 
Number forty-one expresses the lady's doubts as to the truth 
and loyalty of her wooer. Numbers forty-two and forty-three 
are more outspoken, and openly accuse him of treachery. Num- 
ber forty-four, on the other hand, is addressed to a lover in 
whom she places her entire confidence, and whose love she 
would rather be than to be Empress of Rome. 

3. Balades 4850 discourse on the nature of love in the 

1 " Pour ceaux q'attendont lours amours par droite mariage." I, 342. 

" Selonc les propretes et les condicions des Amantz qui sont diverse- 
ment travailez en la fortune d'amour." I, 343. 


4. Balade 5 1 is addressed by the author to the Virgin. He 
declares himself the servant of all ladies, but especially of her, 
to whom none in life may compare. With all his heart he loves 
and prizes her q . es tflorie 

De bien, d'onour, de joie et de plesance. 

This balade is an excellent example of the mystical expressions 
of love and devotion to Christ and Our Lady in which the 
language of chivalrous love was employed. 1 

The Cinkante Balades are written on the French models, 
and it is hardly necessary to say that the sentiments expressed 
are the conventional ones. Cupid is alluded to as a neglectful 

* Ore est yvern, qe soloit estre Mali ; 

Ne sai pour quoi Cupide me desdeigne. 2 

The classical conception of the god with his dart occurs in the 

Ma dame, quant jeo vi vostre oill vair et riant, 
Cupide m'ad ferru de tiele plaie 
Parmi le coer d'un dart d'amour ardant, 
Qe nulle medicine m'est verraie 
Se VQUS n'aidetz. 3 

In these lines appears also the conceit of the baneful influence 
of the lady's eyes, as well as the fancy that she is the only 
physician who can heal the lover's wounds. The superior 
position of the lady is pictured in almost every balade ; in the 
following, the idea is presented by means of the feudal figure : 

Pour un regard au primere acqueintance, 
Quant jeo la bealtd de ma dame vi, 

1 For other instances of this in Middle English, see Boddeker, Altenglische 
Dichtungen des Ms. Harleian 2253, Berlin, 1878, pp. 191, 192, 198, 218 ; Richard 
Rolle and His Followers, ed. Horstmann, London, 1896, II, 354-366; Ancren 
Riwle, ed. Morton, London, 1853, p. 338 (the story of the lady besieged 
in an earthen castle and released by a king) ; Woohing of Our Lord, ed. Morris 
for Early English Text Society, pp. 268 ff. 

2 Balade 40. 8 Balade 27. 


Du coer, du corps trestoute m'obeissance 

Lui ai done", tant sui d'amour ravi : 

Du destre main jeo 1'ai ma foi plevi, 

Sur quoi ma dame ad resceu moun hommage 

Com son servant. . . . l 

The perfection of the lady, her coldness, and the lover's un- 
worthiness are so often mentioned that quotation is unnecessary. 
Of the balades devoted to the nature of love (48-50), number 
forty-eight has for its refrain : 

En toutz errours amour se justifie. 

Love is the treacherous faith ; it promises much, but it brings 
little in its hand. The idea is further expressed by an extended 
list of the contradictory characteristics attributed to the passion 
of love, a device which was a favorite with the poets. In 
number fifty we have the convention of love's uplifting power : 

De 1'averous il fait franc et loial, 
Et de vilein courtois et liberal, 
Et de couard plus fiers qe n'est leoun : 
De 1'envious il hoste tout le mal. 

Further details may be spared. 2 The observation of a critic 
that the Balades " add another block of the polished common- 
place to his [Gower's] literary monument," 3 is just; for there 
is nothing but conventionality in the sentiment of the poems 
from beginning to end ; and the conventions are those to be 
met with over and over in the French poets. The noticeable 
feature of the Balades is their finish. Lifeless as they are, they 
prove the poet's ability to rival his French contemporaries in 
giving expression to the courtly love ideas with grace and ele- 
gance. This is as much as can be said for them. They are 
what we should expect from a careful and painstaking poet, 

1 Balade 23. 

2 For an interesting summary of the Balades, see Works, I, Ixxvi-lxxvii. 
8 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, London, 1905, p. 131. 


endowed with talent, but not with genius, and perforce content 
to fall in with the mode and make his erotic work " one more 
concession to the ' tune of the time.' " l 


The large use of conventional ideas in the Cinkante Balades 
shows us what to expect in the Confessio Amantis. In so long 
a poem, frequent repetition of such ideas is natural. No attempt 
will be made, therefore, to list all the examples of the different 
conventions found ; enough of the more striking illustrations 
only will be cited to show the extent of the author's dependence 
upon earlier love literature in the composition of his great erotic 
work. The plot of the Confessio is as follows : 

One day in May, when every bird has chosen his mate and 

sings for pure joy of love, the poet fares forth to walk in the 

fields and woods. But the joy of birds and the beauties of nature 

accord but little with his feelings, for he is farther from his love 

Than erthe is fro the heven above. 

In the midst of the wood he finds a fair plain ; here he be- 
gins to lament the sorrows which love has brought upon him. 
After a time, he falls to the, earth and wishes for death ; but he 
recovers somewhat from his pain, and looking up to heaven, he 
prays to the god and goddess of Love to show him some grace. 
Soon he sees them ; the king of Love is angry and passes him 
by with a glance ; first, however, the poet is pierced to the 
heart by the fiery dart of the god. Venus the queen remains 
and asks him, though with " no goodly chere," who he is, and 
bids him tell his malady. He replies that he is a man of hers 
who has served long in her court,- and that he now asks as re- 
ward some weal after his long woe. She frowns, and replies 
that there are many who pretend to be her servants, yet have 

1 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, London, 1905, p. 131. 


done nothing for her. Still she bids him show her all his sick- 
ness, and he promises to do so if life lasts long enough. She 
commands him first, however, to confess to Genius, her own 
priest. Genius is called, and the confession begins, the lover 
telling all he has felt for love's sake, both of joy and of sorrow. 
After this lengthy ordeal, the lover asks the priest for advice 
as to what course he shall pursue in his love affair. Genius 
rather unfeelingly counsels him to labor no more in things 
which bring no profit, and to give up love and be subject to the 
law of Reason. At the lover's request, however, the priest 
carries to Venus and Cupid a petition written with the suppliant's 
tears. While the lover awaits the result, Venus suddenly ap- 
pears at his side, and falling upon his knees he prays her for 
grace. She asks his name and half scornfully advises him to 
make a " beau retrete " while he can, for his age and hoary 
locks clearly show that he is unfit to be a lover. At this the 
poet grows suddenly cold and falls in a swoon. While he lies 
there, all the world of gentle folk who have formerly been 
lovers pass before his eyes. There were Tristram and Isolde, 
Lancelot and Guinevere, Jason and Creusa, Hercules and lole, 
and many others. Conspicuous were 

the four wyves 
Whose faith was proeved in her lyves, 

Penelope, Lucrece, Alceste, and Alcyone. Cupid, who heads 
all this wonderful procession of lovers, then presses forward and 
draws out the fiery dart. Venus applies a cooling ointment to 
the wound. Reason now returns to the lover, and he is once 
more sound and whole. He receives absolution from the priest ; 
the queen presents him with a " pair " of black beads on which 
are written in gold the words " For reposer." She advises him 
to remain no more in her court, and bidding him adieu, she 
is taken away, enveloped in a starry cloud. And so, with his 
beads, the poet walks slowly homeward. 


The setting of the Confessio Amantis, as it here appears, is 
that of the conventional May Day poems. It should be noted 
that no mention is made of a dream or vision, except that which 
the lover had of the companies of lovers while in a swoon. 
Something of the effect of a vision is produced, however, by 
the sudden appearance of the god and goddess of Love while 
the lover lies in agony on the ground, and the equally sudden 
disappearance of Venus at the end of the poem. Except for 
the omission of the dream or vision, the setting conforms to 
the love-vision type. 

Certain incidental features Gower has borrowed from other 
writers. The contrast of the joyousness of the spring season 
with the lover's sorrow goes back to the troubadours' lyrics. The 
device of making famous lovers of old appear to the poet was 
probably taken from the Prologue to the Legend of Good 
Women. 1 The lovers themselves, as well as the four faithful 
wives, are among the most familiar figures of mediaeval poetry. 
The name of the priest, Genius, comes probably from the 
Romance of the Rose, although it appears in the De Planctu 
Naturae of Alain de 1'Isle. 

The particular scheme of a confession was doubtless sug- 
gested to the poet by the mediaeval manuals of confession, whose 
object was to present in condensed and convenient form for the 
use of laymen and clergy the teachings of the Church with re- 
gard to repentance. 2 In such manuals, designed for edification, 

1 For the relations between Gower's work and the Prologue in question, see 
Bech, Anglia, V, 365-471. Cf. also The Works of Chaucer, ed. by Skeat, Oxford, 
1894-1897, III, xl-xliii. 

2 Mr. Macaulay states (Gower's Works, II, xi) that the idea of the con- 
fession was doubtless taken from the Romance of the Rose. In a later article 
(Cambridge History of English Literature, II, 150) he modifies this statement, 
suggesting the influence of such works as William of Wadington's Manuel 
des Pechies and its English translation by Robert of Brunne, and such other 
combinations of stories as were used for the illustration of a moral truth. The 
later suggestion certainly is the more nearly correct. There is little in the 


the Seven Deadly Sins were the natural topic for treatment, 
and the works which used them as a framework are numerous. 
Such treatises as Le Somme des Vices et des Vertzis of Friar 
Lorens (translated by Dan Michel under the title of the Ayenbite 
of Inwit\ the Prick of Conscience, and Chaucer's Persones 
Tale, occur at once to our minds. Differing from all these were 
the Manuel des Pec hies and Robert of Brunne's English ver- 
sion of the same, the Handlynge Synne. 1 This work is inter- 
spersed with tales designed for the illustration of the particular 
sin under discussion. 

The employment of exempla or illustrative tales was extremely 
common in the mediaeval pulpit. So also in the confessional, 
the priest often needed some anecdote to explain the nature of 
the sins concerning which he questioned his penitent, and it was 
to meet his need that such manuals as Robert of Brunne's were 
compiled. What these manuals, with their stories, were to the 
Church, the Confessio Amantis would have been to priests of 
Love, if any such priests had really existed. The parallel must 
have been part of the poet's intention and cannot have escaped 
the notice of his readers. 

Romance of the Rose to suggest the situation in the Confessio Amantis except 
the name of the priest, and the fact that there was a confession. The shrift 
which Nature there makes to the priest, Genius, has nothing in common with 
the confession of the lover in Gower's poem. The first part of the interview 
between Nature and her confessor, in the Romance, is a savage attack, not by 
Nature at all but by the priest, upon womankind ; and the second part, which 
is the confession proper, is made the medium through which Jean de Meung 
displays his learning, and conveys his ideas on such subjects as astronomy, 
optics, natural phenomena, free will, necessity, destiny, and what makes a 
gentleman. This, of course, gives no suggestion of Gower's confession, which 
proceeds in the orderly fashion of a real shrift before a real priest, with its 
alternate questions and replies. 

1 " The Handlynge Synne forms a sort of prototype to the Confessio Amantis, 
inasmuch as in both cases a large number of tales are narrated in exemplifica- 
tion of the Deadly Sins, albeit the wrongdoing is of a different character, and 
the tales for the most part are of a different style " (Schofield, English Liter- 
ature from the Norman Conquest to Chaucer, New York, 1906, p. 416). 


The plan of the work, then, is a lover's confession of his sins 
against Love ; the prevailing general conception of the love 
deity is, therefore, the ecclesiastical one. In the setting, a 
double personification is used, and Venus and Cupid appear to- 
gether, a feature frequently found in the French love-visions. 
The part which Cupid plays, however, is subordinate to that of 
Venus throughout. It is her priest who hears the lover's con- 
fession ; it is her court in which he serves ; and she it is who 
heals the wounds made by Cupid's dart. She is 

the source and welle 
Of wel or wo, that schal betide 
To hem that loven. 

It is to her, therefore, that the lover appeals for grace. Cupid 
does nothing of any consequence except to pierce the lover, near 
the beginning of the poem, and to pull out the dart, just before 
the close. This proceeding on the part of the god is, as Bech 
aptly remarks, " eine hochst iiberflussige manipulation, da ja 
Gower vorher bereits vor liebesweh seufzt." 1 

Though the prevailing idea is ecclesiastical, no one metaphor 
is consistently sustained in the setting of the story. It changes 
from the feudal to the ecclesiastical and back again without 
any reason. When the lover, overcome by his pain and grief, 
praye , e 

pitous lok 

Unto the hevene, and seide thus : 
O thou Cupide, O thou Venus, 
Thou god of love and thou goddesse, 
Wherispite? (i, 122-126.) 

He has no sooner finished his prayer than the divinities appear 

to him as the 

king of love and qweene bothe (i, 139). 

The classical conception of the god appears in Cupid with his 
fiery dart, with which he pierces the heart of the lover. The 

l Anglia, V, 367. 


figure becomes the feudal one again, when Venus bids the 
despairing lover tell her who he is, and he replies : 

Ma dame, I am a man of thyne, 

That in thi Court have longe served, 

And aske that I have deserved 

Some wele after my longe wo" (i, 168-171). 

Yet, when she bids him confess his sins to her priest Genius, 
the ecclesiastical figure is again employed. And all these 
changes occur in less than one hundred lines. This confusion, 
which is seen throughout the early part of the poem, appears 
again toward the close, where Venus excuses the lover from 
attendance on her court, immediately after which the priest 
grants the absolution demanded. 

In the main part of the poem, that is, in the confession and 
the incidental stories, the use of the ecclesiastical figure is limited. 
The feudal convention, on the other hand, is employed largely, 
and allusions to it are frequent. The lover, acknowledging his 
jealousy of more fortunate wooers, says : 

Whan I the Court se of Cupide 

Aproche unto my lady side, 

Of hem that lusti ben and freisshe, 

Thogh it availe hem noght a reisshe, 

Bot only that thei ben in speche, 

My sorwe is thanne noght to seche (ii, 39-44). 

Later he speaks of 

these lovers that 
Ben poursuiantz fro yeer to yere 
In loves Court (ii, 237-240). 

The confessor warns the lover against Detraction : 

In loves Court a man mai hiere . . . 
That many envious tale is stered. . . . 
If thou have mad such janglerie 
In loves Court, mi Sone, er this, 
Schrif thee therof (ii, 443-454). 


Referring to the patience of Socrates, the confessor humorously 
remarks : If it falle in eny stede 

A man to lese so his galle, 

Him oghte among the women alle 

In loves Court be juggement 

The name bere of Pacient (iii, 702-706). 

Speaking of talebearers, he says : 

* And suche adaies be now fele 

In loves Court, as it is seid, 
That lete here tunges gon unteid (iii, 828-830). 

He advises the lover not to be " foolhasty" : 

Thogh thou to loves Court poursuie, 

Yit sit it wel that thou eschuie 

That thou the Court noght overhaste, 

For so miht thou thi time waste (iii, 1673-1676). 

Venus is referred to as 

the goddesse 

Which loves Court hath forto reule (iv, 1262-1263). 
Prowess of knighthood is exalted as, 

to love sufficant 
Aboven al the remenant 
That unto loves court poursuie (iv, 2017-2019). 

Love lays down his law with regard to largess : 

What man wol noght be felawe 
To yive and spende, . . . 
He is noght worthi forto duelle 
In loves Court to be relieved (v, 4864-4867). 

In his discussion of " gentilesse," the confessor remarks : 

Bot for al that, yit now aday 

In loves Court to taken hiede, 

The povere vertu schal noght spede, 

Wher that the riche vice woweth (iv, 2278-2281). 

Describing the man addicted to somnolence, the confessor warns 
the lover : 


and in such wise 
He doth to love all his service ; 
I not what thonk he schal deserve ; 
Bot, Sone, if thou wolt love serve, 
I rede that thou do noght so (iv, 2741-2745). 

It should be noted that, except in the setting, no attempt is 
made to use either Venus or Cupid consistently as the love deity. 
The personality changes from one to the other without any 
reason. Either or both may be used in any story, or in any 
single part of the confession. In attributing characteristic traits 
to the divinity, Gower hardly discriminates between the two. 
Thus Love is described as a being of irresistible power : 

For love is lord in every place, 

Ther mai no lawe him Justine 

Be reddour ne be compaignie, 

That he ne wole after his wille 

Whom that he liketh, spede or spille (v, 4556-4560). 

Of Pyramus and Thisbe it is said : 

Cupide hath so the thinges schape 

That thei ne mihte his hand escape, 

That he his fyr on hem ne caste (iii, 1351-1353). 

The god is represented as punishing those who attempt to re- 
sist. Gower heads that part of his treatment of Pride devoted 
to Surquidry with the lines : 

Qui magis astutus reputat se vincere bellum 
In laqueos Veneris forcius ipse cadit. 
Sepe Cupido virum sibi qui presumit amantem 
Fallit, et in vacuas spes redit ipsa vias. 

The priest warns the lover : 

If thou refuse 

To love, thou miht so percas 
Ben ydel, as sometime was 
A kinges daughter unavised 
Til that Cupido hire hath chastised (iv, 1238-1242). 


The king's daughter was Rosiphelee, who refused to be affected 
by the tender passion, 

Til whanne Venus the goddesse, . . . 

Hath broght hire into betre reule 

Forth with Cupide and with his miht, . . . 

For he that hihe hertes loweth, . . . 

Cupide, which of love is godd, 

In chastisinge hath made a rodd 

To dryve awei hir wantonesse (iv, 1262-1278). 

We may observe that Gower's " Rosiphelee " is a version of the 
story told in Andreas's work by the knight to the lady who 
would not be persuaded to love. 

Lovers pray to the divinity for grace in their love affairs, or 
for help in their troubles. The lover made angry by those who 
by their lies hinder him in his suit for his lady's favor, can wish 
them nothing worse than that they may fare in love as he does ; 
he declares : For that schal j alway beseche 

Unto the mihti Cupido 

That he so muchel wolde do ... 

To smyte hem with the same rodd 

Withe which I am of love smite (iii, 906-91 1). 

Progne, overcome by her own sorrows and those of her sister, 
makes a vow that the treachery of Tereus shall be avenged : 

And with that word sche kneleth doun 
Weping in gret devocioun : 
Unto Cupide and to Venus 
Sche preide . . . (v, 5817-5820). 

In the hands of this deity is the weal or woe of all lovers. 
The lover recognizes this when he denies that he is guilty of 
avarice in love 

If I that tresor [his lady's favor] mihte gete, 

It scholde nevere be foryete 

That I ne wolde it faste holde 

Til god of love himselve wolde 

That deth ous scholde parte atuo (v, 69-73). 


According to the whim of the god, weal or woe is dealt out. 
Sometimes he is a beneficent god. Venus is gracious to 
Pygmaleon ; for of ^ penance 

He made such continuance 

Fro dai to night, and preith so longe 

That his preiere is underfonge, 

Which Venus of hire grace herde (iv, 415-419). 

Speaking generally, the confessor remarks : 

The god of love is favorable 

To hem that ben of love stable (iv, 442-444). 

This deity is capable of feeling pity. Touched by the devotion 
of Iphis and lante, he 

Tok pite for the grete love, 

And let do sette kinde above, 

So that hir lawe mai ben used (iv, 489-491). 

Both Cupid and Venus showed favor to Viola, who was cursed 

with an avaricious husband : 

This yonge lusty wyht . . . 

. . . was wo bego withal, 
Til that Cupide and Venus eke 
A medicine for the seke 
Ordeigne wolden in this cas (v, 4823-4829). 

With their help, the generous Croceus supplanted the niggardly 
Babio, and the bowe bende 

Which Venus tok him forto holde 

And schotte als ofte as evere he wolde (v, 4858-4862). 

Oftener, however, the god or goddess is unfavorable to lovers. 
At the very beginning of his work, Gower says : 

. He [i.e. Love] yifth his graces undeserved, 
And fro that man which hath him served 
Fulofte he takth aweye his fees, 
As he that pleieth ate Dees (i, 51-54). 

The idea occurs over and over again throughout the Confessio 
Amantis ; and it is often embodied in the representation of 


Love as a personality who is unjust, neglectful, or deceitful. 
Thisbe, seeing the dead body of Pyramus, reproaches Venus 
and Cupid for their injustice : 

O thou which cleped art Venus 

Goddesse of love, and thou Cupide, . . . 

This Piramus, which hiere I se 

Bledende, what hath he deserved ? 

For he youre heste hath kept and served. . . . 

Helas, why do ye with ous so? (iii, 1462-1470). 

Similarly, the lover, commenting on his own lack of success, 
complains of Cupid's injustice : 

Bot this I se, on daies nou 

The blinde god, I wot noght hou, 

Cupido, which of love is lord, 

He set the thinges in discord, 

That thei that lest to love entende 

Fulofte he wole hem yive and sende 

Most of his grace ; and thus I finde 

That he that scholde go behinde, 

Goth many a time ferr tofore (iv, 1731-1739). 

Sometimes the god is neglectful of his votaries. The con- 
fessor warns the lover not to give way to despair : 

Mi Sone, of that thin herte siketh 

With sorwe, miht thou noght amende, 

Til love his grace wol thee sende (iv, 3502-3504). 

Iphis, brought to despair because he did not speed in his love 
for Araxarathen, bewails his case : 

O thou Cupide, o thou Venus, . . . 

On you is ever that I crie, 

And yit you deigneth noght to plie, 

Ne toward me youre ere encline (iv, 3558-3565). 

But it is the deceitfulness of Love that Gower remarks upon 
more than any other quality. Speaking of the part Venus 
played in the case of Albinus and Rosemund, he identifies her 
with Fortune : 


Bot sche which kepeth the blinde whel, 

Venus, whan thei be most above, 

In al the hoteste of here love, 

Hire whiel sche torneth, and thei felle 

In the manere as I serial telle (i, 2490-2495). 

She is represented as playing a similar role when the lover 
speaks of his own fortunes : 

The trewe man fulofte aweie 

Sche [Venus] put, which hath hir grace bede, 

And set an untrewe in his stede (viii, 2377-2384). 

Cupid too is a deceiver. Through him Geta was supplanted in 
Almeene's affections by his friend Amphitrion. 

Whan he [Geta] best wende have ben above 

And sikerest of that he hadde, 

Cupido so the cause ladde 

That whil he was out of the weie, 

Amphitrion hire love aweie 

Hath take (ii, 2468-2473). 

The power of Venus, acting as the goddess of carnal passion, 
is shown in the story of the violation of Leucothea : 

Venus which hath this la we in honde 

Of thing which mai noght be withstonde, 

As sche which the tresor to warde, 

Phebum to love hath so constreigned 

That he withoute reste is peined . . . 

To coveite a maiden [Leucothea] (v, 6715-6722). 

She appears in the same role in the " Marriage of Perithous," 
where she joins forces with Bacchus, and together they make 
the Centaurs drunk with wine and lust, until the fair Hipotace 
is carried off from her husband. 1 

In giving expression to these conventional ideas, Gower does 
not confine himself to the use of personifications. The attributes 
of the all-powerful god or goddess are even more often expressed 

1 vi, 506-510. 


abstractly ; and the idea of the absolute dominion of love over 
the lives of men and women occurs on almost every page. The 
following passage, out of a great number, will suffice as an 
illustration : And though a man be resonable, 
Yit after kinde he is menable 
To love, wher he wole or non 1 (iii, 389-391). 

The doctrine of secrecy, which ordinarily occupies so promi- 
nent a place in mediaeval love-poetry, is found also in the 
Confessio Amantis. But it is not set forth with nearly so great 
insistence as we might expect in so long a poem. This is partly 
due to the fact that the hero and his lady are decent people 
in whose affairs there is no real need for secrecy. But it is due 
largely to the plan of the work itself. For Gower is treating of 
the seven deadly sins conceived with respect to love, and in such 
a scheme he seldom has occasion to mention secrecy at all. The 
most pronounced expressions ef the doctrine occur in the sec- 
tion on Advantance or Boasting. Here Gower begins with the 

Statement : Estque viri culpa iactancia, que rubefactas 
In muliere reas causat habere genas. 2 

Upon the lover's protesting that he is innocent of the sin of 
boasting, the confessor replies : 

Mi Sone, I am wel paid withal ; 

For wite it wel in special 

That love of his verrai justice 

Above alle othre ayein this vice 

At alle times most debateth, 

With al his herte and most it hateth (i, 2449-2455). 

In telling of Jason and Medea's precautions against detection, 
the confessor remarks : 

For love is evermore in doute 

If that it be wisly governed 

Of hem that ben of love lerned (v, 3850-3852). 

1 Cf. iii, 344-346, 1194-1195; vi, 317-318; viii, 153-158, 1761-1764. 

2 Latin lines preceding i, 2399. 


A curious enlargement of the conventional idea of secrecy 
is found in the confessor's treatment of the sins of the eye. 
Many an evil man uses his eyes to find means of harming other 
people, by seeing what he ought not to see. 

And thus ful many a worth! knyht, 

And many a lusti lady bothe, 

Have be fulofte sythe wrothe, 

So that an yhe is as a thief 

To love, and doth ful gret mischief (i, 310-320). 

The implication is, that love's observances demand secrecy, and 
that whoever sees what he ought not in such affairs sins against 
Love in so doing. It was this offense for which Laar was 

Hire tunge he kutte, into helle 

For evere he [Jupiter] sende hir forto duelle, 

As sche that was noght worthi hiere 

To ben of love a Chamberere, 

For sche no conseil cowthe hele (iii, 823-827). 

The last two examples not only set forth the doctrine of secrecy, 
but they reveal an abhorrence of spies and talebearers, the fear 
of whom we have found associated with the desire for secrecy 
as far back as the troubadours. These pests were evidently at 
work in the time of the confessor, for immediately after his 
remarks upon the punishment of Laar, he says : 

And suche adaies be now fele, 

In loves Court, as it is seid, 

That lete here tunges gon unteid (iii, 828-830). 

A very interesting figure in the poem is that of the lady. 
She is conventionally presented, in the main. Her position in the 
background, her beauty, her superiority, her attitude toward the 
lover these are all in accord with long-established precedents. 

It is noteworthy that the physical charms of the lady are but 
little dwelt upon by a lover who is so much in earnest in his 
love as is Gower's hero. He seems to be much more interested 


in her qualities of mind and heart. The sole description of her 
person is appropriately connected with the delicacies upon which 
the lover's heart feeds through the sight. When he comes where 
the lady is, his eye taketh a fo<Je rf such ^ 

That him non other deynte needeth. 

Of sondrie sihtes he him fedeth : 

He [the eye] seth hirey^ of such colour 

T\\a.tfreisshere is than eny flour; 

He seth hire front is large and plein 

Withoute fronce of eny grein, 

He seth hire yhen lich an hevene, 

He seth hire nose strauhgt and evene, 

He seth hire rode upon the cheke, 

He seth hire rede lippes eke, 

Hire chyn acordeth to the face, . . . 

He seth hire necke round and dene, 

Therinne mai no bon be sene, 

He seth hire handes faire and ivhyte, 

He seth hire schapthe forth withal, 

Hire bodi round, hire middel smal, 

So wel begon with good array, 

Which passeth al the lust of Maii (vi, 765 ff.). 

The italicized words show without further comment the conven- 
tional plan of enumerating the lady's features one by one, and 
also the usual mediaeval ideas of feminine beauty. 

Macaulay remarks apropos of this description of the lady's 
person * that it "is not offensive, as such descriptions almost 
always are." This is doubtless true ; details which might be 
regarded as offensive are not mentioned, or if mentioned, not 
dwelt upon. But Gower's description is not without sensual 
suggestiveness ; note, for example, the lines : 

For al this thing withoute wyte 

He [the eye] mai se naked ate leste, 

So is it wel the more feste 

And wel the mor Delicacie (vi, 780-783). 

1 Macaulay, II, xvi. 


And elsewhere the author is not averse to dwelling on the 
sensual in his consideration of the lady's physical charms : 

Somdiel I mai the betre fare 

When I, that mai noght fiele hir bare, 

Mai lede hire clothed in my arm : 

Bot afterward it doth me harm 

Of pure ymaginaccion ; 

For than this collation 

I make unto miselven ofte 

And seie, " Ha lord, hou sche is softe, 

How sche is round, hou sche is smal ! 

Now wolde god I hadde hire al 

Withoute danger at mi wille ! " 

To the beauty of the lady's character, no great amount of 
space, comparatively speaking, is devoted by the author. The 
plan of the work gives first importance to the lover's confession 
as to his fortune in love ; anything which bears directly on this 
element of the story is given prominence. For example, the 
lady's coldness, as we shall see, is mentioned repeatedly. Her 
good qualities of mind and heart, on the other hand, though they 
appear in the course of the work, are not much dwelt upon by 
the lover himself. Yet he gladly recognizes his lady's excel- 
lences of character. The one quality which he most fondly 
brings into prominence in speaking of her, is her discretion. 

For fame, that can nothing hide, 
Alday wol bring unto myn Ere . . . 
How sche is fair, how sche is wis 
How sche is womanlich of chiere. 

" Governauruce," or a discreet and dignified self-control, was 
a quality highly valued in ladies by their lovers. 1 The beauty 
of discretion in this case is enhanced by the fact that the lady 
is very popular with the opposite sex. She is beset by wooers ; 
and, if the lover's opinion may be accepted as trustworthy, 

1 Cf. Chaucer's Complaint to Pity, 11. 40-41. 


they are not all actuated by the highest motives. Yet she 
knows well how to fashion her conduct towards them. The 
lover says : 

Bot, Sire, as of my ladi selve, 

Thogh sche have wowers ten or twelve, 

For no mistrust I have of hire, 

Me grieveth noght, for certes, Sire, 

I trowe, in al the world to seche 

Nis woman that in dede and speche 

Woll betre avise hire what sche doth, 

Ne betre, for to seie a soth, 

Kepe hire honour ate alle tide, 

And yit get hire a thonk beside (ii, 50-60). 

And again : 

And for men sein unknowe, unkest, 

Hire thombe sche holt in hire fest 

So close withinne hire oghne hond, 

That there winneth noman lond. 

Sche lieveth noght al that sche hiereth, 

And thus fulofte hirself sche skiereth, 

And is al war of " hadde I wist " (ii, 467-473). 

As is usual in the love literature, the position of the lady with 
regard to the lover is one of superiority. The figure employed 
most frequently is the feudal one. The lover is her vassal and 
her obedient servant. He shows his relation to her in the 

couplet : 

With al that evere I may and can, 

Sche hath me wonne to hire man (v, 4495-4496). 

The service which such a relation entailed is constantly brought 

out : 

And evere I love and evere I serve, 

And evere I am aliche nerr (iii, 1 146-1 147). 

Nouther yive ne behote 
In rewarding of mi servise 
It list hire in no manner wise (v, 5193-5195). 


Attendant upon this service of his lady is a constant fear of 

Men sein that every love hath drede ; 
So folweth it that I hire drede 
For I hire love (v, 6059-6062). 

Before her, his humility is absolute. Though he knows that love 
lurks in the heart of man, and every man is free to love, he does 
not consider himself worthy to be loved, except in his lady's 


I trowe ther be noman lesse 

Of eny maner worthinesse 

That halt him lasse worth thanne I 

To be beloved (i, 1925-1928). 

As a servant to his lord, so he remembers obedience to his 
lady. No trained dog is so ready to "go lowe " at his master's 
command as he is to do her will. 

What thing sche bit me don, I do 

And wher sche bit me gon, I go 

And whanne hir liste to clepe, I come. . . . 

I serve, I bowe, I loke, I loute, 

Myn yhe folweth hire aboute ; 

What so sche wole, so wole I (iv, 1157-1171). 

The subject upon which the lover speaks most feelingly, be- 
cause it concerns him most closely, is the attitude of the lady 
toward him, and the treatment he receives from her. She is 
cold, neglectful, and indifferent. She bids him not to speak to 
her of love, but to choose another for his amie, averring that he 
stands far from her grace. She will not even receive a gift from 
him, lest he might have some small cause to hope. Yet she takes 
gifts from others by way of friendliness, so that all speak well 
of her. Everything the lover does to please her is fruitless. He 
essays rondeaus, ballades, virelays, carols, but all in vain. She has 
never yet given him a " goodlie word " as a recompense for his 
love. She has his love " by large weight and great measure," 


and he has nothing of that for which he has paid so dearly with 
his heart. She has never even said to him " grant mercy " to 
lighten his pain. 

Sche wolde noght hire yhe swerve 
Min herte with o goodly lok 
Tofede(vi, 71 

His condition he sums up in the words : 

Min herte stant evere in o stede 

And axeth besiliche grace 

The which I mai noght yit embrace (iv, 57-59). 

It will be needless to go through the numerous reiterations of 
the idea of the lady's indifference to her lover's feelings. Ingen- 
ious as some of the expressions are, the idea does not change, 
but is always the conventional one. 1 

Before leaving this feature, however, we should note Gower's 
use of the allegorical figure of Danger. He follows the example 
of the French writers in making a generous use of this figure 
to set forth the coldness of the lady. Danger is the lover's 
mortal enemy, and may well be called " sanz pite." He hinders 
the lover in all things, and will not let the lady receive his suit. 
He is always with her and gives an evil answer to all the lover's 
prayers. So between the two there is deadly war. If he can 
overcome Danger, his joy will then begin. But no man can 
daunt this enemy with sword or weapon, nor enchant him with 
any charm. One might not even steal the least look of one's 
lady's eye if Danger saw it. 

Of such cruel treatment the lover naturally complains, as every 
lover was expected to do. When he sees and hears the " hevy 
chiere " and the " hevy word " of his lady, he is " disesed " in 
his heart. Yet his complaint is not to her. He keeps it all to 

1 The idea is expressed, among others, in the following places : i, 2373- 
2 375; "i 55> 63-70, 871-877; iv, 279-291, 2788-2813; v, 5190-5195. 


himself; for he dares not displease her by speaking of his sorrow. 
He calls her to witness that he has never chidden her. On the 
contrary, if it mihte her Uke) 

The beste wordes wolde I pike 

Whiche I cowthe in myn herte chese (iii, 499-501). 

Yet in his heart he cries out against Fortune, because he does 
not speed in his love. 

The figure of first interest in the Confessio Amantis is the 
lover himself. The lady interests and attracts ; but she remains 
in the background. The confessor, one may say, is a piece of 
the machinery of the poem. As the central figure, the lover is 
intended by the poet to engage our sympathies in the recital of 
his experiences, and in the confession of his shortcomings in 
the religion of love. 

Much is found in mediaeval love-literature, by way of reference, 
allusion, and injunction, regarding the qualities which go to make 
up the model lover ; but the plan of a confession to a priest of 
love affords an opportunity of presenting an array of qualities 
that might daunt even a Gawain with his " olde curtesye." In 
general, the lover must avoid each of the seven deadly sins, 
with the various divisions and subdivisions, and embrace the 
opposite virtues. We may call to mind the passage in the Troilus 
in which Chaucer is describing the ennobling effect of love upon 

Thus wolde Love, y-heried be his grace 
That Pryde, Envy, Ire, and Avaryce 
He gan to flee, and every other vyce. 1 

An interesting example of the use of this idea is to be found in 
the story of the little Jehan de Saintre. 2 The Lady of the Fair 
Cousins takes the little Jehan, then thirteen years old, whom she 
has chosen as worthy of her favor, and whom she expects to 

1 Troilus, iii, St. 258. 

2 A. de la Salle, Histoire et Cronicque du Petit Jehan de Saintre et de lajeune 
Dame des Belles Cousines, Paris, 1830, chap, v, pp. 20 ff. 


model into a courtly lover and knight, and gives him detailed 
instructions how to conduct himself. She puts before him the 
nature of each of the deadly sins, and shows him why, as a 
lover and a knight, he must avoid them all. 

In considering the confessor's use of these sins and his appli- 
cation of them to love matters, we must take into account the 
fact that all, considered as sins against the Christian God, were 
to be shunned by the courtly lover. But we must also keep in 
mind that what would be a sin in the Christian religion, might in 
some cases be a virtue in the religion of Love. In examining the 
lover's confession, then, the following questions naturally arise : 

1 . How far are the sins, considered as such from the Christian 
standpoint, sinful in the religion of Love ? 

2. How far is the confessor consistently a priest of Venus, 
and how much does he let Christian teaching obtrude ? 

3. How does his teaching accord with the courtly love ideas ? 

4. What is the character of the lover, which would result from 
following the priest's counsel ? 

The first sin which the confessor takes up is Pride, and he 
discusses it under five heads : Hypocrisy, Inobedience, Surquidry 
or Presumption, Boasting, and Vainglory. The virtue corre- 
sponding to Pride is Humility. Considered as a sin in a Christian 
sense, Pride is to be shunned by all courtly lovers ; Humility, 
on the contrary, is to be practised. Modesty is enjoined upon 
lovers in Rule 8 of Andreas's shorter code. 1 The branches of 
Pride in Love's religion have particular meanings. Hypocrisy, 
as the confessor here applies it, is the deception of women in 
order to gain their love. This is a sin against the god of Love, 
and it is frequently denounced. A good example occurs in the 
Romance of the Rose, where the god exacts hostages from the 
lover as an evidence of his good faith. 2 In treating this topic, 
therefore, Gower's confessor is a consistent priest of Venus. 

1 Andreas, p. 106. 2 English Translation, 11. 2043-2060. 


The most obvious sense in which Inobedience could be con- 
sidered as a sin from the Christian point of view would be with 
reference to God. The parallel in the religion of Love would 
be Inobedience to the god of Love. This application, however, 
the confessor does not make until he reaches the discussion of 
Surquidry. The other sense in which Inobedience might be 
viewed as a sin in the Christian religion is with reference to 
human beings in authority. This application the priest does 
make in considering the sin from the standpoint of love, the 
person in authority being the lady. Here, then, we have good 
courtly love doctrine. Perfect and unfaltering obedience to his 
lady was incumbent upon every lover. The confessor is, there- 
fore, consistent with his office as a priest of Venus in enjoining 
obedience upon his penitent, and his illustrative tale of Florent 
is pertinent. 

Presumption, as the confessor applies it to love affairs, con- 
sists in deeming oneself more worthy than one is. He is right, 
therefore, in condemning it ; for though the courtly lover was 
expected to be worthy of his lady's favor, yet his humility should 
keep him from thinking himself to be so. The presumption 
which would lead a lover to think he was loved when he was not 
would likewise be a sin against Love. Disdain of Love, inspired 
by presumption, the priest is right in saying, is the worst sin of 
all against the god. It thus appears that Presumption and Ino- 
bedience with reference to the god are practically identical. The 
tale of Narcissus aptly illustrates them both. So far, then, the 
confessor is consistent in his condemnation. 

The two forms of the sin of Advantance, or Boasting, are 
rightly condemned by a priest of Venus. For a lover to proclaim 
his own merit in other than love affairs would be a violation of 
the injunction relating to modesty given by the god. 1 To pro- 
claim his merit in love would be an act of presumption. As 

1 Andreas, Short Code, Rule 8, p. 106. 


for boasting of favors received, this would be a violation of the 
law of secrecy, which is everywhere enjoined. The confessor is 
right in saying that Love hates Advantance above every other vice. 

In the application of the sin of Vainglory to love, the priest 
seems to strain things a little. The vainglorious man sets his 
thought on the world and delights in new things, without ever 
thinking that death is coming. So, the priest says, the lover 
makes his songs and carols and does not think of death. But 
why death ? The obvious parallel would be, seemingly, that the 
vainglorious lover is flippant and forgets that at any moment 
the god of Love may turn his joy to sorrow. As for the lover's 
being light-hearted and merry, he had the god's own command 
for this. 1 It looks here as if the poet were letting a little of his 
own seriousness intrude in the counsel of the confessor. With 
the exception of this slight inconsistency, however, it is clear 
that all the prohibitions of the priest, with his concluding in- 
junction to practise humility, fit well with the ideas of the 
courtly system. And his advice so far, if followed, would make 
a good courtly lover. 

Envy, the second sin, manifests itself in five forms : Sorrow 
for another's joy, Joy for another's sorrow, Detraction, False- 
Semblant, and Supplanting. Like Pride, Envy, judged from the 
Christian point of view, is to be shunned by the lover. The con- 
fessor's statement gives a sufficiently good reason for this : " The 
envious lover is not ' shapely ' to marry, for there is in him no 
'matiere wherof he mihte do plesaunce,' because he always seems 
* unglad.' The fire within him dries up the blood which should 
flow kindly through his veins. ' Toward love, Envy is noght/ 
for he is moved by malice in all he does." 

According to the religious convention, love is the gift of the 
god. He inspires in a lover's heart affection for some particular 
woman ; if she grants the lover her favor, it is because the god 

1 Romance of the Rose, 1. 2275. 


puts it into her heart to do so. This being true, for a lover to 
envy the joy of a man who has been favored when he himself 
has not, would be a sin against the god. The confessor is right, 
therefore, in condemning envy in love which manifests itself in 
sorrow for another's happiness. For the same reason, joy for 
another's sorrow is properly condemned. 

The other three points of Envy, Detraction, Supplanting, 
and False-Semblant, as the confessor applies them, are closely 
related. Supplanting was expressly forbidden in Rule 3 of 
Andreas 's shorter code. 1 As a corollary, False-Semblant and 
Detraction as means of supplanting are violations of the same 
law. Moreover, Slander is especially forbidden in Rule 9 of 
the same code. We may note, in passing, the common sense of 
the priest's remarks concerning Detraction. "A lover who finds 
fault with his rival and detracts from his good qualities," says 
the confessor, " only injures his own cause. The lady needs no 
one to tell her of the faults of her wooers ; she probably knows 
them. Furthermore, she will only think the less of the detractor 
for his envy." The observation is true to human nature ; and 
in matters of love the priest's advice with regard to speaking 
unfavorably of one's rivals is good, whether for mediaeval or for 
modern lovers. He is, therefore, consistent as a priest of Venus 
in forbidding Envy with its five divisions and in commending 
Charity as the " vertu sovereine." 

The five ministers of Wrath, the next sin to be considered, 
are Melancholy, Cheste or Chiding, Hate, Contek (which has 
Foolhaste for chamberlain), and Homicide. In his application of 
some of these sins to matters of love, the confessor is evidently 
forcing things. As far as the general injunction to eschew wrath 
and to practise patience is concerned, he is in accord with the 
ideas of the courtly system. One of its fundamental principles 
was that love easily obtained is not greatly appreciated ; and that 

1 Andreas, p. 106. 


the lover should, therefore, suffer, if not in patience at least in 
submission, the ups and downs of his fortune. Patience would 
be a measure of common sense, and it is upon this basis that 
the confessor makes his injunction. Upon the same basis, 
the vice of Cheste, or Chiding, in love is condemned ; for it 
would indeed be a foolish lover who chid the lady whose favor 
he sought. 

The tale of Canace, which the priest uses to illustrate the evils 
of Melancholy, although it does this admirably in a general way, 
illustrates much more forcibly another doctrine. Gower, through 
the confessor, here voices one of his favorite ideas : that by 
nature every man is amenable to love, whether he will or not ; 
and that whoever works against nature is apt to come to woe. 
Now Canace and her brother are only following the dictates of 
nature when they are guilty of incest. The important lesson 
the priest draws from the story is that 

it sit every man to have 
Reward to love and to his miht, 
Ayein whos strengthe mai no wiht (iii, 344-346). 


What nature hath set in her lawe, 

Ther mai no mannes miht withdrawe (iii, 355-356). 

The lesson which the priest professes to teach by the tale, namely, 
the evil of Melancholy, follows as a corollary from this proposi- 
tion. In venting his wrath upon his children, the father is guilty 
of a sin against the god of Love, a perfectly just conclusion 
for a priest of Love to arrive at. The logic of such a conclusion, 
coming, as it does, from Gower the moralist, will be discussed 
later in this study. 1 

As for the other divisions of Wrath Hate, Contek, and 
Homicide the author seems to be put to it to make them fit 
into his scheme. Whom may a lover hate ? The confessor 

1 See p. 85, below. 


says : "It would be better to hate no man, even though he had 
hindered the lover. The lover should beware, however, of those 
who hate him, for such hate is often disguised under a false 
appearance " all of which is an admonition to caution on the 
one hand, and to the exercise of Christian charity on the other. 
As for romantic love, like Envy, " it is noght." 

Contek and Homicide are closely related. What have these 
sins to do with love ? The confessor's argument is : " Reason 
often tells the lover that he ought to cease from his love ; but 
Will urges him on to it. But Will should always be ruled by 
Reason. For when Contek is in the heart, Will, overpowering 
Reason, may lead to Homicide." Coming from a priest of Venus, 
this is strange doctrine. The confessor is clearly confusing erotic 
with Christian philosophy. To subject Will or Desire to the 
control of Reason is the part of practical wisdom, but it is not 
in the spirit of the religion of Love ; love, as the confessor 
teaches elsewhere, stops at no bounds to attain its ends. Homi- 
cide, as the result of unrestrained passion, is a manifestation of 
the power of the god of Love ; when it becomes suicide, as it 
does in the illustrative story of Pyramus and Thisbe, it exalts the 
victim of his own madness to the rank of martyrdom in the 
service of the god. 

Sloth is the next sin taken up ; it has seven points : Lachesse, 
Pusillanimity, Forgetfulness, Negligence, Idleness, Somnolence, 
Despondency. The poet is on safe ground in his application of 
the sin of Sloth and its divisions. This vice is bad in the pursuit 
of anything valuable, and certainly in the pursuit of love. It is 
largely on the basis of common sense that the priest condemns 
the sin with its subdivisions. He has opportunity, in considering 
these, to give some very sensible and practical counsel, which does 
not always accord with courtly love ideas ; and also to give some 
which is not so sensible, but none the less thoroughly in the 
spirit of the courtly system. 


Lachesse, which in the Christian sense means slackness in 
the service of God, 1 the priest interprets as meaning, in a lover's 
case, postponing his pursuit of the lady's favor. This he con- 
demns, and his condemnation is in accord with courtly ideas. 
The lover was supposed to be in constant service of his lady, 
and to beseech her favor in and out of season ; as Pandarus says, 

he must 

ever in oon be fresh and grene 

To serve and love his dere hertes quene, 

And thinke it is a guerdon hir to serve 

A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. 2 

"Unknowe, unkist, and lost that is unsought." 3 This implies 
that the lover must not be pusillanimous. 

When, however, the confessor's strong practical sense leads 
him to condemn a lover's fear to tell his love, his teaching is 
contrary to the conventional ideas. Under the courtly system, 
the proper humility of the lover always made him fearful in his 
lady's presence, especially in the matter of declaring his passion. 
Similarly, in his condemnation of Forgetfulness, the priest de- 
parts from courtly conceptions. The lover's confusion in his 
lady's presence was supposed to make him forget half of what 
he had to say. The god in the Romance of the Rose remarks 
to the lover: n n'iert ja si apenses 

Qui en ce point n'oblit asses 
S'il n'est tiex que de guile serve. 4 

Again the confessor's common sense makes him vary from the 
accepted doctrine. 

Of course, Negligence, as the priest explains the term, would 
be a sin against Love. Every lover was supposed to know the 
art of love. Such manuals as the Romance of the Rose were 
designed to teach this very thing. 

1 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 59. 8 Ibid., st. 116. 

2 TroiluS) i, st. 117. 4 Romance of the Rose, 11. 2491-2493. 


In his observations on Idleness, the confessor is in full agree- 
ment with conventional ideas. The principle that love is the 
duty of all young people has a prominent place in the book of 
Andreas. The injunctions with regard to the lover's going on 
expeditions into foreign lands, in order that his fame may reach 
the ears of his lady, are in line with courtly love principles. 
Andreas teaches that love is to be the reward of noble deeds ; 
and his teaching is reflected constantly in the other erotic litera- 
ture. The confessor's remarks on Courage and Manhood lead 
him to the " inevitable discussion of the nature of ' Gentilesse ' 
and how far it depends upon birth, riches, or personal merit." l 
Gower's conception of Gentilesse, as voiced by the confessor, 
differs much from that of such poets as confine themselves 
strictly to the courtly view ; but all agree that the lover 
must possess the quality in question. 

As to Somnolence, the confessor's remark, 

Love and slep acorden noght (iv, 3 1 86) 

is good courtly love philosophy, and merely expresses the 
conventional idea long present in the love literature. 

Despair, in the Christian sense, was one of the worst of sins ; 
for in despairing of God's mercy the sinner put himself beyond 
the power of God to save him. 2 In much the same sense the 
confessor applies the sin to love, and he is right in condemning 
it. For, to quote his own words, 

I not what other thing availeth 

Of hope whan the herte faileth (iv, 3507-3508). 

Of Avarice, the next sin, the confessor says, in effect : Avarice 
renders a man a slave to his gold. It makes him strive to get 
more and more, and to let nothing go. This vice must be shunned 
by every lover who hopes for his lady's favor ; and he must use 

1 Macaulay, II, 508. 2 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 56. 


largess and give for his love's sake. It is natural that a lover 
should be a slave to Love ; but there is a form of avarice in love 
that is a great evil. This is Jealousy. As the avaricious man is 
in constant fear that his gold will be stolen, so the jealous man 
is never at peace for fear of having his treasure taken from him. 
Thus he makes both himself and his lady miserable. Love hates 
nothing more than the sin of Jealousy. 
Avarice has eight servants : 

1. Covetousness. The evils of Covetousness are illustrated 
by the stories of Virgil's Mirror, The Two Coffers, and The Two 
Pasties and the Beggars. The moral of the last two is that 
though a man covet love, yet shall he not obtain more than 
Fortune has allotted him. Some there are, however, who covet 
every woman they see, because something in her pleases them. 
Other lovers covet women, not because of their beauty or vir- 
tue, but for their riches. Such love must be condemned ; only 
pure love shall last. Marriages made for money are a great evil ; 
but riches may sometimes be a help in love affairs. Perjury 
and False-witness often work in the service of Covetousness. 
Treacherous lovers frequently beguile women by swearing faith- 
ful service to them. Such men are worthy neither to love nor 
to be loved. 

2. Usury. The usurer in love gives as little as possible, and 
takes all he can get. 

3. Parsimony or Scarceness. Stinginess never accords with 
love, and the stingy lover often changes the coat for the hood. 
Judicious giving accomplishes much, and meed keeps love in 
the house. 

4. Ingratitude. The ungrateful lover is he, who, when he has 
had what he will of love, begrudges giving anything in return. 

5. Ravine. As some take other men's goods without payment, 
so some lovers force women to their desires. Such conduct is 
against Love's law. 


6. Robbery. The robber forces women to his will when he 
meets them in lonely places. 

7. Stealth. Lovers sometimes take kisses or other things by 

8. Sacrilege. Lovers are guilty of sacrilege when they use 
occasions of worship to whisper, sigh, and ogle. 

All these servants of Avarice the lover must avoid ; he must 
cultivate the virtue of Largess, which is a mean between Prodi- 
gality and Avarice. The prodigal lover spends and wastes his 
love by bestowing it on many women. 

The remarks of the confessor with regard to Avarice are 
such as might be expected from any exponent of the prin- 
ciples of the courtly system. Avarice was unalterably opposed 
to love. Andreas has a law to the effect that love and avarice 
cannot dwell together, 1 and many allusions to the incompati- 
bility of the two occur in his work. A positive statement of 
the principle is repeatedly found in the literature of love, in the 
insistence upon generosity as a qualification of the true lover. 
The three qualities most commonly demanded of lovers are 
Prowess, Courtesy, and Largess. The vice of Avarice, to which 
all men may be addicted, is the one especially to be shunned 
by lovers. 

In making the special application of Avarice to love, the con- 
fessor departs a little from the courtly ideas. His assertion that 
Love hates nothing more than jealousy is not quite in accord 
with the courtly tradition, one of the principles of which was 
that he who does not become jealous does not love. 2 The con- 
fessor's description of the jealous man, however, applies rather 
to the husband than to the lover ; and if he means to restrict his 
assertion to the relation between man and wife, it is directly in 

1 Andreas, p. 310. 

" Ex vera zelotypea affectus semper crescit amandi." Andreas, Longer 
Code, No. 21, p. 310. 


line with the courtly doctrine, which held that jealousy could 
not, or at least should not, exist in marriage. 1 

The application of the different points of Avarice to love 
accords on the whole with the courtly system ; but the priest 
sometimes finds it necessary to force things. For example, in 
the consideration of Covetousness, the conclusion to which he 
comes, that though a person covet love, yet he shall obtain only 
what has been allotted to him by Fortune, is obviously far-fetched. 
On the other hand, the observations with regard to a lover's 
coveting more than one woman are good courtly doctrine. Con- 
stancy or Steadfastness was a virtue always insisted on, and the 
light and easy transference of affection from one person to 
another was abhorrent to the votaries of courtly love. 

The confessor's strictures on marriages made for money 
probably express Gower's personal views. In the courtly sys- 
tem, marriage was deemed of little consequence, so far as love 
itself was concerned ; and it is certain that many a marriage was 
contracted for no other object than to obtain riches. 

The condemnation of treacherous lovers is, of course, a 
commonplace in all courtly love literature. What has already 
been said regarding Avarice in general, applies equally well to 

1 Although jealousy is made a necessary condition of love in Andreas's 
philosophy, the love poets are not at all agreed on this point. The character 
Esperance, in Froissart's Paradys d 'Amours, remarks that, although some who 
know much about loving hold that without jealousy there can be no love, yet 
in her opinion it is neither fair nor good, and ought to be shunned by all lovers. 
We may compare with this Criseyde's pathetic remarks : 

Eek al my wo is this, that folk now usen 

To seyn right thus, "ye, Jalousye is Love! " 

And wolde a busshel venim al excusen 

For that o greyn of love is on it shove ! 

But that wot heighe god that sit above, 

If it be lyker love, or hate or grame ; 

And after that, it oughte bere his name (Troitus, iii, st. 147). 

Many similar expressions could be cited to show that not all writers agreed 
with Andreas on this point. 


Parsimony. Ravine and Robbery, as the confessor uses the 
terms, are practically identical, and are contrary to the law of love 
in any system. 1 Of the remarks on the other four points, those 
on Usury and Ingratitude are forced, while those on Stealth and 
Sacrilege are not only forced but childish. Just why stealing 
kisses should be a sin against Love is hard to see. One fears 
the poet's austerity is speaking here. Certainly this is true with 
regard to what he says about Sacrilege. The confessor of Venus 
has again become the Christian priest, and the observations 
would be far more fitting in the Mirour de VOmme than in a 
work dealing with romantic love. 

In considering the sin of Gluttony, the confessor wisely limits 
himself to two points, Drunkenness and Delicacy. His discus- 
sion of even these two is not particularly happy. Why should 
Love's priest condemn love-drunkenness ? The more intoxicated 
with love one is, the greater is the manifestation of the god's 
power. Here the confessor returns to the relation between 
reason and love, which was discussed under Wrath. As in that 
connection, so here he is overstepping the bounds which a 
priest of Venus should observe. And though on the basis of 
wisdom his condemnation of intoxication is appropriate, yet it 
is quite out of place on the lips of Love's confessor. 

The remarks on love-delicacy, too, are more those of a 
Christian priest than we should expect, coming as they do from 
a priest of Love. Considered from the standpoint of courtly 
love, the condemnation of a man's forsaking his wife for other 

1 Under the latter of these two sins, the poet's teaching reaches the height 
of absurdity. He takes occasion to commend virginity and to preach the 
beauty of this virtue both in men and women. As illustration, he tells the tale 
of Phirinus, who put out his own eyes to enable him to keep himself chaste. 
In only one other place is the confessor so absurd ; that is, in his survey of 
the different religions of the world (v, 747-1970), where he "occupies himself 
in demolishing the claim of Venus to be accounted a goddess, and that too 
without even the excuse of having forgotten for the moment that he is supposed 
to be her priest" (Macaulay, II, xx). 


pleasures is all wrong. The same is true with regard to the 
lover's demanding the ultimate favors. 

Two sins remain to be treated by the confessor, Unchastity 
and Incest. The former does not receive a separate considera- 
tion in the Confessio Amantis ; but Chastity is treated as the 
fifth point of that Policy which teaches kings how to govern 
their kingdoms. Chastity is, therefore, according to the priest, 
one of the virtues which should be found especially in kings. 
Chastity, according to the teaching of the Church, was of 
three kinds : chastity in marriage, by which the wife was true to 
her husband ; chastity in widowhood, by which a widow, or a 
woman who had been guilty of illicit love, kept herself clean ; 
and chastity of virginity. 1 It is the first of the three which 
the priest discusses. His remarks have nothing to do with 
the confession of the lover ; the author, speaking through the 
confessor, is giving his ideas on the duties of sovereigns and 
intends, perhaps, to deliver a lecture through the medium of his 
book to the young King Richard. In treating Incest, he adopts 
the teaching of the Church. Hence he denounces marriage 
within the third degree, as well as guilty love of women " of re- 
ligion," which the Church regarded as incest. 2 All this has 
nothing to do with the lover's shrift. The confessor has already 
treated the subject of Incest as a priest of Venus, in the story 
of Canace (under the head of Melancholy) ; he here considers 
it from the point of view of a Christian moralist. 

We may briefly summarize the confessor's teaching in the 
following terms. He is in accord with the courtly love ideas 
in condemning six of the deadly sins Pride, Envy, Wrath, 
Sloth, Avarice, and Gluttony. Incest, which he also condemns, 
comes under the head of Lechery, but this latter sin as a whole 
he does not treat. Of the divisions of these several sins, as 

1 Chaucer, Persones Tale, sect. 77-84. 

2 See Mirourde rOmme, 11. 9085 ff. 


applied especially to love, those belonging to Pride and Envy 
are rightly denounced by a priest of Venus. Of the divisions of 
Wrath, none have any direct connection with the courtly ideas. 
Chiding is censured on grounds of common sense. The con- 
demnation of Melancholy proceeds rather from the particular 
view of love held by the author ; while Hate, Contek, and 
Homicide are looked at from the Christian point of view. 
Under the head of Sloth, Lachesse, Pusillanimity, Negligence, 
Idleness, Somnolence, and Despondency are all contrary to the 
spirit of courtly love, and the confessor rightly speaks against 
them. He departs from that spirit, however, in his treatment of 
Forgetfulness, and of one phase of Fear as he defines it, con- 
demning both on grounds of common sense. Five of the phases 
of Avarice he is right in reprehending as a love priest. His 
remarks, on two of them, Usury and Ingratitude, are so trivial 
that they mean nothing, judge them from whatever standpoint 
we will. Stealth and Sacrilege are prohibited, the former be- 
cause of the austerity of the poet, the latter because of his 
Christian zeal. Under Gluttony, Drunkenness and Delicacy 
are both considered from the Christian point of view, as are 
also the last two sins, Unchastity and Incest. 

What, now, would be the character of the lover who should 
follow the priest's counsel ? Before answering this question, we 
must disregard all the offenses which the confessor judges by 
the Christian standard (except, of course, the seven principal 
sins themselves). Thus we exclude Hate, Contek, Homicide, 
Stealth, Sacrilege, Love-Drunkenness, Love-Delicacy, Un- 
chastity, and Incest. Omitting these absurdities, we find that 
the confessor's counsels, if followed, would result as follows : 
The lover would be humble, charitable, patient, courageous, and 
generous. His humility would keep him from presumption, and 
make him obedient to his lady. He would be innocent of be- 
guiling other women ; and he would not be guilty of boasting or 


of frivolity. He would not resort to detraction or " f alse-semblant " 
in order to supplant another lover ; indeed, he would not be 
guilty of the sin of " supplanting " at all. He would keep his 
love engagements with promptness. He would not fear to speak 
his love to his lady, nor would he forget what he had to say 
when he attempted to speak. He would know all the art of love. 
He would show his love by his deeds of prowess and would 
seek fame in distant wars. He would not sleep while others were 
merry ; indeed, his love would allow him little sleep at any time ; 
but he would never grow despondent nor despair. He would 
shun jealousy. He would not force favors from any woman ; 
and his constancy to his own lady would prevent him from even 
desiring such favors except from her. But for his attitude 
toward his lady in the matter of Fear and Forgetfulness, he 
would be a genuine courtly lover, and all his conduct would 
bear the stamp of " gentilesse." 

From this description of the courtly lover we may pass to 
other related conventions which appear frequently in the Con- 
fessio Amantis. 

The favorite idea that love ennobles a man's character is well 
expressed by Genius : 

For evere yit, it hath be so 

That love honeste in sondri weie 

Profiteth, for it doth aweie 

The vice, . . . 

It makth curteis of the vilein, 

And to the couard hardiesce 

It yifth, so that verrai prouesce 

Is caused upon loves reule 

To him that can manhode reule ; . . . 

I trowe that ther is no beste 

If he with love scholde aqueinte, 

That he ne wolde make it queinte 

As for the while that it laste (iv, 2296-23 15). 1 

1 Compare also the story of the False Bachelor, ii, 2586 ff. 


The conventional notions as to the effect of love upon the 
feelings occur frequently. Love is a malady so grievous that it 
" might make a wise man mad if it should long endure." 1 Very 
often it is described in general terms of pain and woe. 2 In his 
lady's presence the lover is confused and timorous ; he loses his 
memory and even his power of speech. 3 In shriving himself of 
forgetfulness, he remarks that, when he is about to see his lady, 
he rehearses in his mind many things to say, but when he 
comes where she is he forgets them all, because he is so 
afraid of her. 4 Sleeplessness from love is mentioned again and 
again : the confessor even tells a tale to illustrate the doctrine 
that " love and slep acorden nought." 5 A good summary of 
the lover's symptoms may be found in the lines which describe 
the passion of the maiden of Pentapolim for Apollonius : 

Thenkende upon this man of Tyr, 

Hire hert is hot as eny fyr, 

And otherwhile it is acale ; 

Now is sche red, nou is sche pale, 

Right after the condicion 

Of hire ymaginacion. 

Sche stant for love in such a plit, 

That sche hath lost al appetit 

Of mete, of drinke, of nyhtes reste, 

As sche that not what is the beste (viii, 845-860). 

There remain to be noted a few conventional ideas in Gower's 
work which do not admit of particular classification. A conceit 
which was a favorite with Chretien, that love attacks the heart 
through the eyes, occurs in the Confessio Amantis. Genius ad- 
vises the lover to guard the eyes, for through them, as through 
gates, such " sotie " comes to a man as may make his love 
exceed measure. 

1 Confessio Amantis, i, 130-131. a Ibid., vi, 718 if. 

3 Ibid., i, 559-567 ; iv, 355-362. 

4 Ibid., iv, 557-587. 5 Ibid., iv, 3186. 


Fulofte thilke firy Dart 

Of love, which that evere brenneth 

Thurh him [the eye] unto the herte renneth (i, 322-324). 

Chretien's idea of the enmity of one's own eyes appears in 
the lines : And thus a mannes yhe f erst 

Himselve grieveth alther werst (i, 325-326). 

Another doctrine of Chretien, that lovers' hearts remain together, 
though their bodies are separated, is reflected in the words of 
the lover : Thus ate laste l go to bedde> 

And yit min herte lith to wedde 

With hire, wher as I came fro ; 

Thogh I departe, he wol noght so, 

Ther is no lock mai schette him oute, 

Him nedeth noght to gon aboute, 

That perce mai the harde wall ; 

Thus is he with hire overall (iv, 2875-2882). 

Gower is fond of describing love in terms of contradictions, 
after the manner of the well-known eighty-eighth sonnet of 
Petrarch. The following are a few of the many examples : 

Est amor egra salus, vexata quies, pius error, 
Bellica pax, vulnus dulce, suave malum. 1 

Love is the unsely jolif wo (i, 88). 

And thus soffre I the hote chele 

Which passeth othre peines fele ; 

In cold I brenne, and frese in hete, 

And than I drinke a bitter swete (vi, 247-250). 

Gower's most elaborate use of the conceit is found in the Latin 
verses entitled Carmen de variis in amore passionibus breviter 

comfiilatum .* ~ . 

Est amor in glosa pax bellica, lis pietosa, 

Accio famosa, vaga sors, vis imperiosa, 
Pugna quietosa, victoria perniciosa, 

1 Macaulay, II, 35. 


Regula viscosa, scola devia, lex capitosa, 
Cura molestosa, gravis ars, virtus viciosa, 
Gloria dampnosa, flens risus et ira iocosa, 
Esca venenosa, fel dulce, fames animosa, 
Vitis acetosa, sitis ebria, mens furiosa, 
Flamma pruinosa, nox clara, dies tenebrosa, 
Res dedignosa, socialis et ambiciosa, 
Garrula, verbosa, secreta, silens, studiosa, 
Fabula formosa, sapiencia prestigiosa, 
Causa ruinosa, rota versa, quies operosa, 
Urticata rosa, spes stulta, fidesque dolosa. 1 

Some features which perhaps may not be properly classed 
under the head of conventions, but which, nevertheless, were 
not original with Gower, may here be mentioned. The use of 
Genius as the confessor has already been referred to as taken 
from the Romance of the Rose. The contest in which Wit and 
Reason are pitted against Will and Hope (in, 1157-1192) is, 
as Macaulay remarks, " quite in the style of the Roman de la 
Rose, where Reason and the lover have an endless dispute." 2 
A variation of the idea is found in the controversy between the 
priest and the lover, the result of which is told in the lines : 

Mi resoun understod him wel, 

And knew it was soth every del 

That he hath seid, but noght forthi 

Mi will hath nothing set thereby (viii, 2191-2194). 

The representation of love as an insatiable thirst was common. 3 
The story of the two tuns of Jupiter appears in the Romance of 
the Rose, but Gower has modified the original, making Cupid, 
instead of Fortune, the butler, and using the whole to express 

1 Macaulay, I, 392. 2 Ibid., II, 496. 

8 Note, for instance, the following from Watriquet de Couvin : 

M'est vis que pis m'en soit, 
Et que plus bui et plus oi soit, 
Si qu'en bevant fui touz ravis. 

La Fontaine d* Amours, 11. 175-177. 


the thought, frequently employed by him, that love is a matter 
of chance. The three cooks, Sight, Hearing, and Thinking, 
who cater to the lover's appetite for delicacies, remind one 
of the Dous-Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard of the 
Romance of the Rose. 

The large array of conventional ideas and sentiments pointed 
out in the foregoing pages is only indicative of a much larger 
mass, which comprises practically all that part of the Confessio 
Amantis that is devoted to the treatment of love. Is there any- 
thing in the work, we are naturally led to ask, which lifts it above 
mere conventionality? Does it show any of that vital quality 
which we might expect to find in a story of love ? Deep, earnest 
passion, to be sure, it does not express ; the plan and object of 
the work forbid. What made the book attractive to its readers, 
apart from its moralizing elements, was the large number of well- 
told tales which it contains. The story of the lover's fortunes, 
while interesting, was no doubt secondary in importance, both 
for the author and for his contemporaries. Still, in the two main 
characters, the lover and his lady, there is both human quality 
and charm. 

In the lady, as Macaulay remarks, " we recognize a creature 
of flesh and blood, no goddess indeed, as her lover himself ob- 
serves, but a charming embodiment of womanly grace and refine- 
ment. She is surrounded by lovers, but she is wise and wary. 
She is courteous and gentle, but at the same time firm ; she will 
not gladly swear, and therefore says nay without an oath, but it 
is a decisive nay to any who are disposed to presume. She does 
not neglect her household duties, merely because a lover insists 
upon hanging about her, but leaves him to amuse himself how 
he may, while she busies herself elsewhere. If she has leisure 
and can sit down to her embroidery, he may read to her, if he 
will, but it must be some sound romance, and not his own roun- 
dels, balades, and virelays in praise of her. Custom allows him to 


kiss her when he takes his leave, but if he comes back on any 
pretext and takes his leave again, there is not often a second 
kiss permitted. She lets him lead her up to the offering in church, 
and ride by her side when she drives out, but she will take no 
present from him, though with some of her younger admirers, 
whose passion she knows is a less serious matter, she is not so 
strict but takes and gives freely. Her lover suspects that her soul 
may be in a perilous state, seeing that she has the power of sav- 
ing a man's life and yet suffers him to die, but he admits there 
is no more violence in her than in a child of three years old, 
and her words are as pleasant to him as the winds of the South." l 
The attractiveness of the picture cannot be denied. There is no 
extravagance here, no idealization ; only the portrait of an every- 
day woman, who is sensible as well as fair : 

A creature not too bright or good 
For human nature's daily food. 

The general tendency of Gower to keep his feet on the ground 
appears also in his portrayal of the lover. The practical common 
sense of the answers which the lover gives to the confessor's 
questions pleases us ; their perfect sincerity and frankness 
awaken our sympathy. In the story of his love, as he tells it, 
there is no deep passion which stirs us. Yet he retains our 
interest, because we see in him a man who, in the pursuit of his 
love, feels the same hopes and joys, and suffers the same dis- 
appointments which a lover of to-day might experience. Thus 
in spite of conventions, from which the author could not have 
escaped had he desired, he has managed to depict in the lover 
and the lady two figures which are thoroughly human. 

It is with a distinct shock that we learn, having followed the 
perfectly natural story of the lover's fortunes, that, after all, he 
is only an old man whose "lockes hore " do not accord with 

1 Macaulay, II, xvi. 


" loves lust." We wish that the poet might have chosen a less 
bungling way of ending his poem. Of course, it is necessary in 
a love- vision, which Gower's poem practically is, to have the hero 
dismissed in some manner from his interview with the god or 
goddess. But he is usually dismissed with some word of approval 
or with an injunction appropriate, in either case, to the part that 
he has played throughout the story. Thus the lover in the Dit 
dou Vergier is advised by the god who is departing : 

Mais je t'apenray au partir, 
Se tu vues aus dous biens partir, 
Et estre garis de tes maus, 
Que secrez soies et loiaus. 1 

Similarly, the god of Love in the Romance of the Rose leaves 
the hero with the injunction : 

Good-Hope alway kepe by thy syde 
And Swete-Thought make eek abyde, 
Swete-Lokyng and Swete-Speche. 2 

It is not unusual, too, for the author to appear in a love-vision, 
and to be dismissed with a command. For example, in the Pro- 
logue to the Legend of Good Women, the poet is ordered at the 
close to write his Legend. Machaut likewise appears by name 
in \h&Jiigement dou Roy de Navarre? and is dismissed by the 
king with the command to write certain poems in certain metres. 
In the first two instances, the hero is left a lover as he has been 
throughout ; in the last two, the heroes are poets at the end as 
they have been from the beginning. In the Confessio, on the 
other hand, after being led to think of the hero as a young man, 

A lovyere and a lusty bachelere, 

we are confronted with the statement that it is only John Gower, 
the gray-haired old poet. The spectacle of " olde Grisel " growing 

1 Ll. 1191-1194. 2 English Translation, 11. 2941-2943. 

8 This is not a love-vision; but is modelled on such love-poems as the Phyllis 
and Flora. It will therefore serve well enough for illustration. 


cold about the heart and lying there in a swoon for love, is in- 
congruous, to say the least. A poet with more imagination and 
with less desire to make clear the fact that his chief interest was 
in moral affairs, 1 would certainly have devised a more attractive 
conclusion for a poem which, in its main features, is not without 
attractive qualities. 

We must now inquire into the nature of the love which is 
treated in the Confessio Amantis. Being familiar with Gower's 
aversion to all moral obliquity, we should not expect to find the 
sensual element prominent in his work. The end of the lover's 
passion, we may infer from the general tone of the story (though 
nothing is said on this point), is possession of the lady in mar- 
riage. We have already noted, however, some passages which 
are suggestive of the more earthy nature of his love. In the 
illustrative stories, love is repeatedly identified with physical 
passion. Thus : 

Anon the wylde loves rage, 

In which no man him can governe, 

Hath mad him [Helmege] that he can naght werne 

Bot fell al hoi to hire assent (i, 2620-2623). 

Be daie bothe and ek be nyhte, 

Whil thei be yonge, of comun wone 

In chambre thei togedre wone, 

And as thei scholden pleide hem ofte, 

Til thei be growen up alofte 

Into the youthe of lusti age, 

Whan kinde assaileth the corage 

With love and doth him forto bowe, 

That he no reson can allowe, 

Bot halt the lawes of nature (iii, 148-157). 

1 Cf. the injunction of Venus : 

Mi sone, be wel war therfore, 

And kep the sentence of my lore 

And tarie thou mi Court nomore, 

But go ther vertu moral dwelleth, 

Wher ben thi bokes, as men telleth (viii, 2922-2927). 


Anything approaching Platonic love, however remotely, is not 
to be found in the Confessio Amantis. The author's own view 
probably was, that love, if not identical with physical passion, is 
based upon it and largely influenced by it. This view, together 
with his decided leaning towards fatalism, 1 leads him over and 
over again to emphasize the irresistible character of love. For 

Love is maister, wher he wile (i, 35). 

For loves lawe is out of reule 

And though a man be reasonable 

Yet after kinde he is menable 

To love wher he wol or non (iii, 389-391). 

Bot love is of so gret a main 

That where he taketh an herte on honde 

Ther mai nothing his might withstonde (vi, 90-92). 

Such expressions are apt to occur whenever love is mentioned. 
Taken in connection with these facts, Gower's repeated use 
of the conventional idea that love is entirely under the dominion 
of chance, has more than conventional significance. At the 
beginning the author, speaking in his own person, says : 

For if ther evere was balance 
Which of fortune stant governed, 
I may well lieve as I am lerned 
That love hath that balance on honde, 
Which wol no reson understonde (i, 41-45). 

Passages like this strengthen the impression which the poet 
manifestly endeavors to make, that in the hands of his physical 
passions man is utterly helpless. 

We may, perhaps, now see some reason for Gower's leniency 
toward certain faults which otherwise his moral austerity would 
lead him unequivocally to condemn. Critics generally have 

1 The frequency with which phrases like " as it scholde " and " as it scholde 
be " occur in the work, leaves no doubt as to the poet's belief in the doctrine 
of fate. See iii, 1222, 1348, 1677; iv, 92, 1542; vi, 995, 1026, 1613, 1702. 


wondered at his condoning the sin of the brother and sister in 
the tale of Canace. " We are completely at a loss," writes ten 
Brink, " to know what to think of the ' moral ' Gower's logic, 
when, in the story of Canace, he blames indeed the rage of the 
father, but excuses the incest of the children on the ground of 
strong natural impulse." l From what has been said, it will 
appear, I think, that the poet's excuse of the children's sin is 
not at all illogical, even on the part of a moralist. If it be true, 
as the author seems to believe, that human beings under certain 
circumstances are powerless to resist the impulses of their na- 
tures, and if at the same time human actions are largely deter- 
mined by fate (as Gower also believed), for the poet to condone 
the sin of incest under the circumstances is not only logical, 
but just. 

But apart from any personal views which Gower may have 
held on such questions, he would no doubt have had a ready 
answer for those who might accuse him of inconsistency. He 
could have replied that he was here setting forth the doctrines 
and ideas of romantic love (with which, as we shall see, Gower 
felt but scant sympathy). If these doctrines lead to such a situ- 
ation as is seen in the tale of Canace, and the priest of Venus 
condones the sin of incest, it is, Gower might say, speaking as 
a moralist, all the worse for romantic love. He could rightly 
shift the responsibility for any immoral teachings in the tale 
from his own shoulders to those of the confessor of Venus. 
However, Gower's belief on the question is a sufficient expla- 
nation of his treatment of the sin ; and it was doubtless sufficient 
justification to him for including in his great collection of stories, 
not only the Canace, but also the Apollonius, against both of 
which the Man of Lawe remonstrated. 2 

1 Ten Brink, History of English Literature, translated by Kennedy, New 
York, 1893, Vol. II, pt. i, p. 135. 

2 Prologue to Man of Lawe's Tale> 11. 77-89. 


Interesting to note in this connection is another view of 
Gower's, quite at variance with the teachings of the Church, of 
which the poet was a stanch supporter. The Church, while it 
glorified marriage, 1 and commended the part that woman took 
in the lawful relations between the sexes, yet regarded her 
generally with suspicion, since she tempted man by her beauty, 
and caused him to sin. The woman, according to the Church's 
teaching, was strictly responsible for any evil effects her beauty 
might have. A good expression of this teaching is found in the 
Ancren Riwle : "Vorj>i was ihoten a Godes half ifen olden 
law }>et put were ever iwreien, & gif eni unwreie put were, & 
best feolle per inne, he hit schulde gelden pet ]?ene put unwreih. 
pis is a swupe dredlich word to wummen j>et scheawep hire to 
weopmones eien. Heo is bitocned by )>e J?et unwriep J>ene put." 
And the writer goes on to say that the woman's face, her white 
neck, her trivial eye, her hand, and anything belonging to her, 
whatsoever it be, " ]?urh hwat muhte sonre ful luve aquiken " is 
the pit. And whenever her beauty awakens guilty love in a 
man, even though she does not know it, she thereby uncovers 
the pit, and she shall be responsible for the man's sin. " Hund 
wule in blipeliche hwar se he ivint hit open." 2 Now Gower 
comes out flatfooted against this doctrine. 

For in the woman is no guile 

Of that a man himself bewhapeth ; 

Whan he his oghne wit bejapeth, 

I can the wommen wel excuse : 

But what man wole upon hem muse 

After the fool impression 

Of his ymaginacioun 

Withinne himself the fyr he bloweth, 

Wherof the womman nothing knoweth, 

So mai sche nothing be to wyte (vii, 4266-4275). 

1 Cf. Persones Tale, sect. 77. 

2 Ancren Riwle, ed. Morton, pp. 58-60. 


And he goes on to say that if a man drown himself, it is not 
the fault of the water ; if men covet gold, the gold is not to blame. 
It is natural for a man to love ; but it is not natural for a man 
to lose his wits. 

Another question of interest remains to be considered : What 
was the poet's attitude toward the courtly love ideas ? He leaves 
us in very little doubt as to the answer to this question. In the 
first place Gower, in one or two places, makes his views perfectly 
clear on certain important doctrines of the courtly system. The 
confessor speaks : 

For thou miht understonde and wite 

Among the gentil nacion 

Love is an occupacion 

Which for to kepe hise lustes save 

Scholde every gentil herte have (iv, 14501454). 

The poet's marginal note shows his own position on this point. 

It reads : 

Non quia sic se habet veritas, set opinio amantum. 

Speaking of the effects of love, the confessor says : 

For evere yit it hath be so, 
That love honeste in sondri weie 
Profiteth, for it doth aweie 
The vice, and as the bokes sein, 
It maketh curteis of the vilein 
And to the coward hardiesce 
Ityifth (iv, 2296-2301). 

The words and as the bokes sein are doubly significant as indicat- 
ing the conventionality of the idea, and as intimating Gower's 
desire to dissociate himself from the sentiments expressed. 

We have already observed that the confessor's good sense 
sometimes led him to make suggestions in regard to certain 
points of love, which run counter to the courtly theories. For 
example, the conventional idea that a lover should be struck 


with fear in the presence of his lady, and should forget every- 
thing he had to say in his own behalf, the confessor meets 
with the practical argument : " He who fails to speak, loses all. 
As a man pursues love, so fortune follows. As for forgetfulness, 
no grace is to be obtained unless it be asked." And he advises 
the lover, who confesses that he has sinned in this matter, to 
" pull up a busy heart " and not to let any chance to speak 
escape him. 1 

Another courtly notion which the poet opposes is that lovers 
must approve themselves in arms. The lover argues that little 
or no good can come from passing over the seas and slaying 
the heathen. It would be better to spend time in converting 
them in harmony with Christ's command than in slaying them 
for the sake of glory. As for himself in particular, it would be 
very foolish of him to cross the seas to fight Saracens, if in the 
meantime he lost his lady at home. 

The good sense which the lover manifests in this argument 
is characteristic of him throughout the work. In portraying him 
the author evinces his own sentiments toward courtly love. 
Gower utilizes the conventions freely. Yet there emerges a 
figure which is very different from the usual courtly lover. The 
confessor sets before him, as we have seen, the qualities which 
the courtly lover should have ; the hero falls short of the ideal 
in many points. The confessor recites in detail the sins which 
a lover should avoid ; the penitent admits that he is in many 
respects a grievous offender. Throughout he is far less romantic 
than the traditional lover, but he is far more human. A similar 
departure from the courtly type appears in the lady. She is a 
creature to be loved, but she is not the perfect being who is set 
upon a pedestal and worshipped. She is indifferent to the 
lover's passion, but her coldness is a matter of principle and 
not of caprice. She is far from being " the abstract divinity of 

1 See bk. iv, 1. 723. 


the old lyric convention." 1 The homely quality in these two 
pictures is highly significant. Obviously Gower found little to 
his taste the extravagances of his predecessors in their delinea- 
tion of the ideal lover and his amie. 

Adulterous love, which was inherent in the courtly system, 
Gower frankly condemns. 

The Madle is mad for the female, 

Bot where as on desireth fele, 

That nedeth noght be weis of kinde. . . . 

Forth! scholde every good mon knowe 

And thenke how that in manage 

His trouthe plight lith in morgage, 

Which if he breke, it is falshode, 

And that discordeth to manhode (vii, 4215-4229). 

Here the moralist speaks with no uncertain voice. This is 
the doctrine he teaches in his Traiti^ which he wrote, as he says, 
" touchant lestat de matremoine dont les amantz marietz se 
pourront essampler a tenir la foi de lour seintes espousailes." 2 
The examples he uses as warnings are such stock lovers as 
Hercules, Jason, Helen, and others who took delight in wanton 
love. Contrary to the old courtly idea that love and marriage 
are incompatible, he exalts marriage and speaks rather slight- 
ingly of love par amours : " Men see that the love par amours 
is seldom without troubles arising from false envy and jangling. 
But love leading to marriage dares show its face openly in all 
places. It is a great wonder that maidens do not hasten to 
that feste, whereof the love is al honeste (iv, 1473-1484). 

Elsewhere he is even more outspoken. The heading of the 
Traitit reads : " Puisqu'il ad dit ci devant en Englois par voie 
d'essample la sotie de cellui qui par amours aime par especial, 
dirra ora apres en Francois a tout le monde en general un traitie" 

1 W. P. Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, p. 123. 

2 Macaulay, I, 379. 


selonc les auctors pour essampler les amantz marietz, au fin 
q'ils la foi de lour seintes espousailes pourront par fine loialte 
guarder, . . ." l As the poet, at the end of the Confessio, de- 
clares that his Muse bids him to write no more of love which 
turns the heart from reason, and that he will therefore take his 
final leave of such love, so in this statement, which can refer 
only to the Confessio, he condemns completely the ideas put 
forth in that work. This is nothing more than we should expect 
of a man in whom the practical was so prominent, a man who 
decided to treat the subject of love only after having concluded 
that it was a task greater than he could compass to stretch his 
hand up to the heaven and set the world in order. 2 

1 Macaulay, I, 379. 2 Confessio Amantis, i, 1-5. 



In examining the element of love in Chaucer's works, 1 we 
shall, for the sake of convenience, make a division of the poems 
which is purely arbitrary. 

In the first group will be included those poems which are 
entirely lyric in quality, and which were composed on French 
models. This group falls into two parts : (i) those pieces which 
contain little or nothing but ideas common in the conventional 
love poems of contemporary French writers; and (2) those 
poems which, though in form following French models, are 
infused with the personality of the poet, and are written in the 
racy style characteristic of Chaucer at his best. 

The second group consists of the Complaint of Mars and the 
Anelida and Arcite. They are classed together because of a 
certain similarity of structure, each of them containing a narra- 
tive portion followed by a lyric in the French style. 

The third group comprises The Book of the Duchess, The 
House of Fame, and The Parliament of Fowls. These all have 
the form of the love-vision, common in Old French poetry. 

The fourth group consists of the Troilus and the Legend of 
Good Women? 

The fifth and last group contains such parts of the Canterbury 
Tales as we may have to consider. 

1 The references are to the Oxford Chaucer, ed. by Skeat, Oxford, 1894- 

2 The form of the Prologue to the Legend would justify us in classing it with 
the third group ; but the arrangement here adopted seems better on account 
of the close connection between the Legend and the Troilus. 


In this arrangement, no account has been taken of chronology, 
and yet the order of the poems mentioned is roughly chrono- 
logical. With the exception of the second subdivision of the 
first group, poems which must have been written towards the 
end of Chaucer's life, the order of the pieces is not far from 
the order in which they were composed. 

The Complaint to Pity 

The Complaint to Pity belongs to the large class of pieces in 
which the poet-lover laments the rigor of his lady. By trans- 
lating the allegory into its underlying meaning, we shall make 
the conventional elements clearer : 

The poet is unfortunate in his love. Although he is true and 
constant, the lady does not look with favor on his suit. This lady 
is the possessor of all the good qualities of the perfect being : 

Bountee parfit, wel armed and richely, 
And freshe Beautee, Lust and Jolitee, 
Assured Maner, Youthe and Honestee, 
Wisdom, Estat, and Dreed, and Governaunce. 

One of her attributes, too, is pity, which however has not been 
spent on the unhappy lover (11. 29-32). It is the conventional sit- 
uation : a lady beautiful in person and character is cold and cruel 
to her devoted servant, and he utters his complaint. The " bille " 
itself, reduced to a single statement, is the lover's appeal for 
mercy and for relief from his woes. Other conventionalities may 
be seen in the idea of the malevolence of Love, conceived as a 
personality (11. 4-6) ; in the lover's woes and pains, his service, 
and his declaration of its continuance (11. 113-116). 

The allegory is well sustained ; briefly stated, it is : The poet, 
driven by pain of love, composes a bill of complaint against 


Cruelty, which he intends to present to Pity, the " coroune of 
vertues alle." The charge is, that Cruelty, strengthening herself 
by an alliance with Bountee, Gentilesse, and Courtesy, and dis- 
guising herself in the shape of Womanly Beauty, has usurped 
the place of Pity in the realm of Feminine Virtues. Because of 
her being deposed, Manner and Gentilesse are of no avail, and 
Truth (representing the lover) can receive no help in his adver- 
sity. Wherefore, he begs Pity to break this " perilous alliaunce " 
and reassert her rights. Else shall lovers who have sought her 
grace be in despair. 

This " bille " he intended to present to Pity ; but after seeking 
her for many years, he at length found her dead and " buried 
in a heart." About the hearse stood Beauty, Lust, Jolitee, As- 
sured Manner, Youth, Honesty, Wisdom, Estaat, Dread, and 
Governance. But none of them showed any sorrow for the death 
of Pity, for all were 

Confedered bothe by bonde and alliaunce 

with Cruelty, who had plotted to slay all lovers, and particularly 
the poet. Realizing that it would avail him nothing to complain 
to his foes, he puts up his " bille " and continues to suffer, feeling 
that for him the world is lost. 

The poem is thoroughly in the style of the love lyrics of 
Deschamps and Machaut. There is some ingenuity displayed in 
the allegory ; but it is no greater than we have seen in the French 
poems noticed earlier in this study. The language and ideas are 
all conventional, and the piece is very probably a translation or 
an adaptation of some Old French poem now lost. 

A Complaint to His Lady 

The story of the Complaint to Pity might serve equally well 
for the Complaint to His Lady. The situation is the same. Both 
belong to the class of poems in which the lover laments his hard 


fate in love, caused by the coldness of the lady. A mention of 
the well-known conventions of love-poetry which appear in the 
Complaint will make clear the spirit of the piece. 

Love is a personality ; he is the deceptive god, who has brought 
the lover into his present trouble. As in the Romance of the 
Rose, the god has used his darts on the unfortunate lover, and 
after thus subduing him, has taught him his art : 

Thus am I sleyn with Loves fyry dart, 
I can but love hir best, my swete f o ; 
Love hath me taught no more of his art 
But serve alwey, and stinte for no wo. 

The lady is endowed with all excellent qualities, but her sur- 
name " Faire Rewthelees " indicates that she is lacking in the 
gentle virtue of pity. She recks not whether her lover floats or 
sinks ; nor does she deign to think on his woe, or in any wise 
to take heed of the heavy life he leads for her sake. The more 
he loves her, the less (he finds) she cares for him, the more she 
makes him " smerte " ; wherefore, he sees that he may in no 
wise escape death. 

Until death relieves him, however, the lover determines to 
serve his lady ; and whatsoever woe he suffers, she shall not drive 
him from her service. He is the least worthy of all the servants, 
good or bad, that such a fair being must have ; all he asks is to 
be allowed to serve her as best he can, for he is not so rash nor 
so mad as to desire that she, who is so good, love him, who is so 
little worthy. He is obedient to her as a servant to his master. 
No one living would more gladly fulfil her heart's wish than he, 
and had he power equal to his will, she should see how fain he 
is to add to her pleasure. 

He undergoes the sufferings incident to such a passion : his 
sorrow keeps him awake ; the long night, when every creature 
should have its rest, he spends in lamenting that nothing but 
death may relieve him from his sorrow. 


Here again, as in the Complaint to Pity, none but conven- 
tional ideas are found ; and the language is equally conventional 
with the ideas. The piece is devoid of any mark of the poet's 
personality, either of that tone of sincerity which is felt in 
his best lyrics, or of that humor which he often employs in so 
charming a manner in his later work. 

The Complaint of Venus 

In utilizing the balades of the French poet Granson, Chaucer 
has made an interesting change. Instead of putting the words 
in the mouth of a lover, he has made the lady the speaker. In 
so doing, he has not employed any idea or language that was 
not conventional ; but it is interesting to note what changes 
were necessary. These appear in the following summaries of 
the two poems. 1 


I I 

1. No comfort is so great when I i. No comfort is so great when I 
am in sorrow, as to think of the man- cannot speak to my lady, as to think 
hood, worthiness, truth and stead- of her worth and her sweet womanly 
fastness of him, whose I am entirely, deeds. She is my life ; no one can 
and always shall be. No one ought blame me, for every one praises her. 
to blame me, for every one praises 

his " gentilesse." 

2. In him, more than any one can 2. In her, more than any one can 
guess, dwells beauty, wisdom, good guess, is bounty, beauty, and grace, 
conduct ; he is the flower of knight- It is a great blessing that the gods 
hood, the soul of honor and of have assembled all good in so small 
nobility. a place. Honor wishes to honor her 

above all. Never have I seen so 
sweet, so pleasing, so noble a woman. 

1 In these, the language of the summary of Chaucer's poem is used in that 
of the French poem, as far as is possible in a faithful rendering of the ideas of 
the latter. 

9 6 


3. Notwithstanding all his worthi- 
ness, he is humble and gentle before 
me, and is attentive to serve and 
honor me in all things. I ought to 
bless my good fortune; for every- 
body praises his " gentilesse." 


1. It is fitting, Love, that men 
should pay dearly for what you give ; 
they must wake when they should 
sleep, fast when they should eat, 
weep instead of laugh, complain in- 
stead of sing ; they must cast down 
their visages, and often change their 
color ; they must complain while they 
sleep, and dream when they should 

2. Jealousy spies upon every- 
thing, and turns all, however reason- 
able, to harm. Love is dearly 
bought ; he gives inordinately ; but 
he gives little pleasure, and much 

3. Love's gift is pleasing for a 
while ; but " ful encomberous is the 
using " ; for jealousy disturbs lovers, 
and causes them fear, and suffering, 
and uncertainty. 


i. But I do not say this, Love, 
as though I wished to escape from 
your power. I have been in your 
service so long that I will never leave 
it, no matter how jealousy torments 
me. It is sufficient for me to see 
him when I may; I will always be 
true to him. 

3. Wherever she is, she does 
good, and effaces evil. She knows 
well how to laugh and to play. She 
brings delight and " solace " to all. 
None can refrain from looking at 
her; and her look is worth all the 
wealth of a kingdom. 


(Chaucer's version is here a suf- 
ficiently close translation of Gran- 
son's verses to render it unnecessary 
to epitomize the latter.) 


But be certain, Love, that I do 
not say this as wishing to escape 
from your power. I have borne my 
martyrdom so long, that, while I live, 
I will endure it. It suffices me to have 
so much of " solace " as comes from 
seeing my fair and gracious one. Al- 
though she be " dangerous," I will 
never cease to serve her. 


2. And certainly, Love, when I 2. And certainly, Love, when I 
consider the " estate " of men, I see consider the " estate " of men, I see 
that you, through your generosity, that you have made me choose the 
have made me choose the best on best possible love. Therefore, my 
earth. Therefore, my heart, love on ; heart, love on ; for you will never 
let jealousy do its worst ; for I shall have pain so grievous on account of 
never cease to love him. my lady, that I shall not be joyous ; 

and I shall never cease to serve her. 

3. My heart, it ought to be suf- 3. My heart, it ought to be suf- 
ficient for you, that Love has shown ficient for you that you have chosen 
such grace to you, that he has led her whom you have. Seek now 
you to choose the worthiest in every neither kingdom nor empire ; for so 
way. He is my sufficiency, and I will good a one you will never find, nor 
not seek for any other. so fair a one will you ever see. 

" C'est jeunesce sachant et savour- 

Though she be disdainful of my love, 
I will never cease to serve her. 

Chaucer's poem is interesting as an example of the comparatively 
small number of pieces in which the lady tells of her lover. We 
note that he here has the usual characteristics expected of the 
courtly lover ; namely, manhood, worthiness, " truth," steadfast- 
ness, " gentilesse," bounty, wisdom, good conduct, honor, nobil- 
ity in short, all virtues are his. Notwithstanding this, his 
behavior toward her is that of a humble servant, and this behavior 
he consistently maintains. 

If we turn to the French poem, we find the lover singing of 
the good qualities of his mistress ; these are the conventional 
ones of bounty, beauty, grace, worth (valour) all shown in 
her womanly deeds. She is accomplished and brings happiness 
to all with whom she comes in contact. 

In the second balade, both poems enumerate the conventional 
effects of love : sleeplessness, loss of appetite, weeping, sadness, 
solitariness, and loss of color. Jealousy is execrated, and the 
sad fact that the course of true love never did run smooth 
is lamented. 


In the third balade, the English again differs from the French. 
The lovers of both poems congratulate themselves that Love has 
made them bestow their affections in the best possible place. 
But both are disturbed in their happiness ; the lady is bothered 
by jealousy ; the man meets his usual enemy in the " daunger " 
of his lady. Yet both alike vow to be true the lady will con- 
tinue to love her lover, and the man to serve his mistress. 

The conventionality of the two productions is alike, and 
neither has the advantage over the other as regards cleverness. 
Indeed, with the exception of the alterations made necessary by 
the change of the speaker, Chaucer's poem, as he says, rather 

faithfully follows 

word by word the curiositee, 
Of Graunson, flour of hem that make in Fraunce. 

Against Women Unconstant 

In the French erotic poetry, especially in that of Deschamps, 
there are a considerable number of pieces in which a lover, man 
or woman, takes his or her love to task for some fault. One or 
two examples we have seen in the Cinkante Balades of Gower ; 
the ballade Against Women Inconstant is one of Chaucer's 
contributions to this class. 

Madam, on account of your " newe-fanglenesse," you have de- 
stroyed many a lover's happiness. I am through with your fickle- 
ness ; for I know that you cannot bestow your love in one place 
half a year at a time. 

Your love is like an image in a mirror, which comes and goes. 
You are like a weather-cock that turns his face with every wind. 
You deserve to be canonized better than Dalilah, Cressida, or 


For ever in chaunging stant your sikernesse ; 

To newe thing your lust is ever kene ; 

In stede of blew, thus may ye were al grene. 


Compleint d' Amours 

In the case of the Compleint cT Amours no analysis is nec- 
essary. The piece does not contain an idea or a sentiment that 
was not thoroughly conventional. The lofty position of the lady ; 
her power over the lover's life and death ; her disdain of his 
passion ; his feeling of unworthiness ; his protestation of service 
till death ; his unwillingness to blame the lady for his woes ; the 
conceit that the eyes are the lover's enemies ; the idea of send- 
ing a complaint to the cruel one on Saint Valentine's Day, 
all were the stock ideas of mediaeval love-poetry. 

A Balade of Complaint Womanly Noblesse 

Unlike the other lyrics so far considered, the Balade of Com- 
plaint and Womanly Noblesse have a ring of sincerity that sur- 
prises us, even though these poems come from the pen of 
Chaucer. It is true that the sentiments expressed are conven- 
tional, and that they are somewhat piled up besides. Still, both 
poems produce an impression of genuine feeling. The second 
piece in particular shows well the ability of the poet to stamp his 
own individuality upon his work. There is a charm in the de- 
light with which the lover exalts his lady's worth by addressing 
her in the envoy in four different complimentary phrases, as 
well as in the simple humility with which he recommends him- 
self. The beauty of the expression, the music of the language, 
the feeling of completeness which is left on the reader's mind, 
are all delightful and admirable. 

Auctor of norture, lady of plesaunce, 
Soveraine of beaute, flour of wommanhede, 
Take ye non hede unto myn ignoraunce, 
But this receyveth of your goodlihede, 
Thinking that I have caught in remembraunce 
Your beaute hool, your stedfast governaunce. 


The observations thus far made on Chaucer's early lyrics 
have a further significance which it may be worth while to 
point out before dismissing them from consideration. Some of 
these poems have been taken to furnish evidence of a " long, 
early, and hopeless " love-affair of the poet's own. 1 This view, 
although revived of late by Mr. Coulton, 2 is now pretty thor- 
oughly discredited, and arguments against it are hardly nec- 
essary. 3 But we may observe that the utterly conventional 
character of the pieces in question would go far to destroy any 
confidence we might have in their autobiographical value. If occa- 
sionally they ring true, this is accounted for by the genius of 
Chaucer. The same dramatic power which he manifests every- 
where in his narrative writing produces the conviction of truth 
when he writes in the first person. But the fiction is none the less 
to be recognized as such. Poets of the period were always writing 
in the first person and complaining of the misfortunes of love. 4 
Yet very few of their poems are held to express personal feeling. 
The Confessio Amantis, which we have already considered, is an 
instructive case in point. For here we appear to have an elabo- 
rate story which we should accept as genuine if we accepted 
Chaucer's. But Gower has prefixed a Latin note which forbids 
such an interpretation : Hie quasi in persona aliorum, qtios amor 
alligat, fingens se auctor esse Amantem, varias eonim passiones 
variis hujus libri distinccionibus per singula s crib ere prop onit:* 

1 See particularly FurnivalPs Trial Forewards to the Parallel Text Edition of 
Chaucer's Minor Poems, 1871, pp. 12, 15, 31, 32, 34, 57, 58, 89-90, 92, and Notes, 
pp. 112, 114, 119, 120; also Koch, The Chronology of 'Chaucer 's Writings, 1890, 
pp. 7, 23, 25. 2 G. G. Coulton, Chaucer and his England, London, 1908, p. 23. 

3 An effective argument against Dr. Furnivall's theory was made by Pro- 
fessor Lounsbury in his Studies in Chaucer, New York, 1892, I, 210 ff. 

4 Citatidns are hardly necessary, but reference may be made to the numer- 
ous ballades, roundels, and complaints of Machaut, Deschamps, and Froissart. 
With regard to the Cinkante Balades of Gower see Macaulay's ed., I, Intro- 
duction, p. Ixxii. Another striking example is the Livre du Voir-Dit of Machaut. 
Cf. the references given above on p. 34. 

6 Macaulay's ed., II, 37, marginal note. 


Merciles Beaute a Triple Roundel 

None but conventional ideas appear in the Merciles Beaute. 
The conceit of beauty striking the lover's eyes and wounding his 
heart, was a favorite one with the troubadours and Chretien de 
Troies. To pass from the abstract to the concrete, and to make 
a specific part of the lady's beauty, the eyes, the agent of the 
lover's undoing, is but a step, which had been taken long before 
Chaucer wrote. 1 The lady's ability to heal the wound, her power 
over the life of the lover, and his certain death if she does not 
intervene, are all familiar traits in Chaucer's predecessors. 

In the second and third roundels, conventional allegory is 
employed to express conventional ideas. In the second, the 
theme is the common one of the lady's coldness. Danger has 
bound Mercy in his chain, and Beauty has driven Pity out of the 
heart. In the third, Love is a malevolent personality. Lovers 
become lean from languishing in his prison. But the poet, thanks 
to the lady's rejection of him, has escaped from his custody, and 
has retained his flesh too. The contrast between the apparent 
seriousness of the first two parts and the playfulness of the third 
gives the poem its charm. It is a good example of Chaucer's 
ability to work with materials and ideas which are thoroughly 

1 For instance, in the roundel of William d'Amiens : 

Jamais ne serai saous 
d'esguarder les vairs ieus dous 
qui m'ont ocis. 

Bartsch, Chrestomathie de Pancien Fran^ais Leipsic, 1866, p. 315. 
See also the lyric of the Proven?al Peirol (1189-1225): 

Be m trahiron siey belh huelh 
Cum a fals messatge 
E m'an mes ins el coratge 
S'amor don mi duelh. 

Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours , II, 23. 


conventional, and yet to vitalize them with his own individuality. 
Only Chaucer could have written : 

Love hath my name y-strike out of his sclat, 
And he is strike out of my bokes clene 
Forevermo ; ther is non other mene. 
Sin I fro Love escaped am so fat, 
I never thenke to ben in his prison lene ; 
Sin I am free, I counte him not a bene. 

Balade to Rosemounde 

The subject of the graceful Balade to Rosemounde is the 
lover's protestations of devotion and service to the lady, even 
though he receives no encouragement in his suit. The situation 
is humorously pictured in the third stanza : 

Nas never pyk walwed in galauntyne 
As I in love am walwed and y-wounde ; 
For which ful ofte I of my-self divyne 
That I am trewe Tristam the secounde ; 
I brenne ay in an amorous plesaunce. 
Do what you list, I wil your thral be founde, 
Thogh ye to me ne do no daliaunce. 

He has his woes, and weeps, as a lover should ; yet the sight 
of his lady's perfect beauty, her merry joyous bearing, and the 
sound of her " seemly voys " heal his wounds, and it suffices 
him merely to love her. 

The attribution of perfect qualities of body and heart to the lady 
is, of course, conventional. The idea of the lover's pain being 
eased by a sight of her laughter and smiles ; the protestation of 
perfect truth and continued service ; the sufficiency of love though 
unrewarded, all these ideas are as old as the troubadours. 

Though the sentiments are all conventional, the spirit of 
Chaucer's treatment of them is his own. We catch a glimpse of 
his individuality in the blending of the serious with the humorous, 


which is so characteristic of him. In the ballade, whether he in- 
tends to burlesque the extravagance of contemporary love-poetry, 
or his natural humor gets the better of the seriousness with 
which he wishes to treat his subject, the effect is equally pleas- 
ing. The idea of the poet's weeping " of teres ful a tyne " and 
of his being " walwed and y-wounde" in love as a "pyk walwed 
in galauntyne " is delightful ; and the humor lifts this little poem 
far above the insipid amorous ballades on which it is modeled. 

The Complaint to his Purse and The Envoy to Scogan 

Chaucer has left to the world two delightful pieces in which 
he has utilized for the central ideas, to be treated humorously, 
a feature or features of courtly love. The first of these pieces, 
we need only mention ; it is The Complaint to his Empty Purse. 
As the courtly lover complains to his lady of her coldness and 
disdain, so Chaucer complains to his purse that it is light, and 
beseeches it to be heavy again, and thus save his life : 
Be hevy agayn, or elles mot I dye ! 

Chaucer, at this time, was an old man (it was the year before 
his death), 1 and this was his appeal for help to King Henry IV, 
whom in the Envoy he calls " conquerour of Brutes Albioun." 
Charming as the humor is, pathos is not wanting when we re- 
member the circumstances. We recognize again the individu- 
ality of the poet, who, though in misfortune, kept a cheerful face 
to the world and brightened an appeal for help with that gaiety 
which no adversity could destroy. 

Another poem of undoubted autobiographical interest is the 
Envoy to Scogan. The theme is the blasphemy of Chaucer's 
friend Scogan against the divinities of love, and the result of 
his sin. Scogan had spoken 

Swich thing as in the lawe of love forbode is. 
1 If the Envoy was written at the same time as the balade. 


This mention of the law of love is interesting as showing that 
the conception, which was as old as the troubadours, was still 
alive. The reference is, of course, to the principle of the courtly 
system, that lovers must not expect to obtain the object of their 
desire too easily, but that the service of love is sufficient reward 
in itself. This principle is nowhere better expressed than in the 
words of Pandarus : 

What ! many a man hath love f ul dere y-bought 

Twenty winter that his lady wiste, 

That never yet his lady mouth he kiste. 

What ! shulde he therf or fallen in despeyr, 

Or be recreaunt for his owne tene, 

Or sleen himself, al be his lady fayr ? 

Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene 

To serve and love his dere hertes quene, 

And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve 

A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. 1 

It was this law that Scogan had been guilty of breaking when 
he declared that he gave up his lady at Michaelmas, because she 
heeded not his distress. He had been guilty further of calling 
Cupid to witness that he had spoken this blasphemy. The re- 
sult was that Venus was in tears, and Cupid was angry. The 
tears of the goddess are deluging all the region of Greenwich, 
and the poet is afraid that equally dire consequences will follow 
from the wrath of Cupid. For although both Scogan and the 
poet have nothing to fear from the god's arrows, yet on account 
of the former's blasphemy, there is danger 

Lest . . . the wreche of Love precede 

On alle hem that ben hore and rounde of shape, 

That ben so lykly folk in love to spede. 

This is a clever use to which to put the old conventions ; and 
as in the Complaint to his Purse, the humor is heightened by 
the serious personal element. After bantering his friend in his 

1 Troilus and Criseyde^ bk. i, St. 116-117. 


delightful way, quickly as the cloud follows the sunshine on a 
summer day the tone changes. The poet thinks of the insta- 
bility of impressions made by human effort, and makes the 
melancholy observation : 

But al shal passen that men prose or ryme ; 
Take every man his turn, as for his tyme. 

The Complaint of Mars 

In the Complaint of Mars the interest is rather astronomical 
than human. With the astronomy, however, we are not at 
present concerned. 

The poet hears a bird singing before sunrise on Saint Valen- 
tine's day. After a short preliminary exhortation to lovers, the 
bird tells the Ovidian story of Mars and Venus, and concludes 
by repeating at full length the complaint of Mars for the loss of 
his lady. The god tells of his devotion to Venus, of her beauty, 
and of her other excellences. The mention of his distress leads 
him to speak of the woes which lovers suffer, and of the in- 
stability of their happiness. He ends with an appeal for sym- 
pathy addressed to the brave knights of renown who are of his 
" division," to all true ladies, and to all lovers who have received 
the aid of Venus. 

Ideas commonly used in love-poetry are seen in the allusion 
to the fear of slanderers, in the lines which speak of "the god 
that sit so hye " as constraining us to love against our will, 
and in all the remarks on the woes and sorrows of lovers ; but 
the conventional features relate, for the most part, to the figure 

of the lady. . .. , , . , 

My lady is the verrey sours and welle 

Of beaute, lust, fredom, and gentilnesse, 

Of riche aray, . . . 

Of al disport in which men frendly dwelle, 


Of love and pley, and of benigne humblesse, 

Of soun of instruments of al swetnesse ; 

And therto so wel fortuned and thewed, 

That through the world hir goodnesse is yshewed. 

Her beauty is the cause of Mars's passion, though not of his 
present sorrow. It is like the famous brooch of Thebes, which 
was fashioned with such art that no one could resist its charm, 
but whoever laid eyes on it must either possess it or go mad. 
Yet the possessor was in constant fear ; and after he had parted 
with it, he had double the woe for having given it up. The 
blame for all this sorrow was not his who desired the brooch, 
but his who fashioned it so cunningly. So is it with the beauty 
of Venus : For thogh my lady have so ^ beaute, 

That I was mad til I had gete her grace, 

She was not cause of myn adversite, 

But he that wroghte hir, also mot I thee, 

That putte such a beaute in hir face, 

That made me to covete and purchace 

Myn owne deth. 

This paragon of excellence occupies the usual position of 
superiority. The lover is her servant, humble, docile, and patient. 
He binds himself to perpetual obedience, and after he has lost 
her, he still vows lasting service. 

"This worthy Mars, that is of knighthod welle," has, like 
other lovers, his woes and sorrows. Since the story deals with 
the intrigue after the lady has been won, we miss the troubles 
with which the lover is usually burdened. His own particular 
woe in loving his lady leads him to remark : 

Alas ! that ever lovers mot endure 
For love, so many a perilous aventure ! 

Among the sorrows of lovers, Mars mentions coldness of ladies, 
the slanderous tongues of envious people, and in general, 

he that hath with love to done 
Hath ofter wo then changed is the mone. 


Our summary of the conventional elements of the poem 
shows that it is, as Mr. Manly calls it, "a mere exercise of in- 
genuity in describing a supposed astronomical event in terms of 
human action and emotion " ; l and that, of human emotion, it 
sounds no great depths. The narrative is conducted with 
Chaucer's usual skill. There is cleverness, too, in the Complaint 
proper, in the use of the two very apt illustrations of the fish 
hook and the brooch of Thebes. Such illustrations are excep- 
tional in this kind of poetry ; but the ideas which they illumi- 
nate are wholly conventional. 

Anelida and Arcite 

The Anelida and Arcite, like the Complaint of Mars, consists 
of two parts : a narrative portion and a lyric in the form of a com- 
plaint. Of the latter, little need be said. The varieties of metre 
indicate .that the poet is exercising his ingenuity. It is written 
on French models and contains little that is new. For the 
most part, it exhibits no great spontaneity. The elaborate stan- 
zaic devices produce an effect of artificiality, which the senti- 
ments, ideas, and language serve only to strengthen. 2 In the 
narrative, on the other hand, there is abundant vitality and spirit. 
Though the stock ideas are used, their conventionality is not 
conspicuous. In the description of the " newe lady," who was all 
of another kind from the trusting Anelida, the commonplace of 

1 Harvard Studies and Notes, 1907, p. 124. Shirley's statement (Furnivall, 
Trial Forewords, p. 80) that the poem has reference to the intrigue of the 
Duchess of York and the Earl of Huntingdon lacks evidence, and in view of 
the conventionality pointed out above it seems unlikely. 

2 In one or two passages of the Complaint, however, pathos is unmistakable. 
Take, for instance, the lines : 

And if I slepe a furlong wey or tweye, 

Than thinketh me that your figure 

Before me stant, clad in asure, 

To profren eft a newe asure 

For to be trewe and mercy me to preye. 


the lady's coldness appears ; but the freshness of the language 
makes us forget the triteness of the sentiments. The new lady 
gives Arcite his fill of " daunger " and 

holdeth him so narowe 
Up by the brydel, at the staves ende, 
That every word, he dradde hit as an arowe ; 
Hir daunger made him bothe bowe and bende, 
And, as hir liste, made him turne or wende. 

There are allusions, too, to the lover's humility, and to his 
sorrows ; but here again is seen the same refreshing manner of 
expressing such ideas. The new lady, the poet tells us, 

ne graunted him in hir livinge 
No grace, why that he hath lust to singe. 

Most of the conventions of the love literature find their root in 
real life. In Chaucer's better work, such ideas take on their 
original naturalness ; and this is true in the narrative portion of 
Anelida and Arcite. On the whole, students and critics have 
underrated the merit of this remarkable poem. 


The general relation of The Book of the Duchess, The House 
of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and the Prologue to the 
Legend of Good Women to the Old French love-visions has 
been made clear by Professor Sypherd, 1 who has proved con- 
clusively that Chaucer was writing under the immediate influence 
of French models. The form, the setting, and the devices em- 
ployed for heightening the interest in the English poems are 
all " determined by the literary genre of the love- vision." 2 Dis- 
regarding the form and setting, therefore, we may proceed to 
examine the element of love. 

1 Sypherd, Studies in Chaucer's " Hous of Fame'' Chaucer Society Pub- 
lications, 1907. 2 Ibid., p. 10. 


The Book of the Duchess 

In the Book of the Duchess the poet relates a dream. One 
morning in May he was awakened by the singing of birds. As 
he lay there listening, the sun's rays streamed through the win- 
dows, in the stained glass of which were wrought the stories of 
famous lovers, and lighted up the chamber walls, which were 
painted " bothe text and glose " with all the story of the Romance 
of the Rose. At the sound of a hunter's horn he quickly left 
his bed, joined the hunting party, and rode away. The chase 
was soon abandoned. As he walked from the tree where he had 
been stationed, a whelp came by him and fawned on him. He 
tried to catch it, but it fled. Following it, he was led through a 
flowery path into a beautiful green wood. As he gazed -at the 
many wonders about him, he was aware of a man dressed in 
black sitting near him, and lamenting in a pitiful manner the 
death of his lady. Out of pure sympathy, the poet accosted him 
and offered to relieve him of his woe, as far as he was able. 
The man in black tells how he has lost his queen in a game of 
chess which he played with Fortune. At the poet's request, he 
then tells the story of how he wooed and won the fair lady, and 
how they lived together in happiness till death took her from him. 
This courtship and marriage is the real subject of the poem, 
and this is the part in which we are here especially interested. 

The Book of the Duchess is among the earliest of Chaucer's 
works. Naturally, therefore, we find in it abundant use of con- 
ventional ideas and language. The knight in black relates his 
courtship and marriage in the general style of the contemporary 
love story. The love deity appears as a feudal lord. The knight 

Sir . . . sith first I couthe *"W 
Have any maner wit fro youthe, 
... I have ever yit 
Be tributary, and yiven rente 
To Love hooly with god entente, 


And through plesaunce become his thral, 
With good wil, body, herte, and al. 
Al this I putte in his servage, 
As to my lord, and dide homage. 

This conception of the deity is not consistently maintained; 
immediately, Love becomes a god to whom the lover prays : 

And ful devoutly prayde him to, ^ 11 
He shulde besette myn herte so, 
That it plesaunce to him were, 
And worship to my lady dere. 

This prayer was answered after many years. 1 

The perfections of the lady, both physical and spiritual, her 
position of superiority, her indifference to the lover, are all told 
in the conventional way. Her physical beauty is described in 
minute detail in lines which, like much of the rest of the poem, 
are taken from Machaut's Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne? 

It is to the credit of Chaucer's delicacy that he has left out 
some of the suggestiveness of his original. A common method 
in the mediaeval descriptions of womanly beauty was to enu- 
merate such charms as were visible, and conclude with a hint of 
what was concealed. For example, in Chretien's Cligh, Alex- 
ander tells how he has been struck by the dart of Love. The 
dart is the beauty of Soredarnours. The golden tresses are the 
feather ; the forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks, mouth, teeth, chin, 
ears, throat, bosom, all go to make up the dart. Having 
described all these, he adds : 

Ne m'an mostra Amor adons 
Fors que la coche et les penons ; 
Car la fleche iert el coivre mise : 
C'est li bliauz et la chemise, 
Don la pucele estoit vestue. 3 

1 See 11. 835 ff. 2 See Kittredge, Modem Philology, VIII, 465 ff. 

8 Chretien de Troies, Cligts, 11. 853-857. 


Alain de Lille, in De Planctu Naturae, after a similar list of 
the beautiful features of Nature, says : " Caetera vero quae 
thalamus secretior absentabat, meliora fides esse loquebatur.*' * 
So, Boccaccio, with reference to Emilia : 

quale poi fosse 

La parte agli occhi del corpo celata, 
Colui sel seppe per cui ella cosse 
Avanti con amor lunga fiata : 
Immagino che a dirlo le mie posse 
Non basterieno avendola io veduta ; 
Tal d'ogni ben doveva esser compiuta. 2 

We have already noted that Gower's lover adopts the same 
method; 3 and in the poem of Machaut which, as we have 
observed, was Chaucer's model in this part of the Book of the 
Duchess, the usual procedure is followed. 

Dou remenant 

Que pas ne vi, dame, vous di je tout 
Qu'a nature tout estoit respondant, 
Bien fassone* et de taille excellent. 4 

These lines, however, do not recur in Chaucer. 

Every good quality of mind and heart is attributed by the 
knight in black to his lady : moderation, " goodly speche," 
goodness, " trouthe," lack of coquetry, and chastity. These, 
like her physical beauties, are dwelt upon at length, as is appro- 
priate in such a eulogy. The significance of Chaucer's elabo- 
rate treatment of the lady's character will be mentioned later. 
Here, we merely note the conventional idea of the lover's de- 
picting his lady as a being perfect in all her attributes of mind 
and heart. 

1 Alain de Lille, De Planctu Naturae, ed. Thomas Wright in The Anglo- 
Latin Satirical Poets of the Twelfth Century, London, 1872, II, 432. 

2 Boccaccio, Teseide, xii, st. 63 ; in Opere Volgari, ed. I. Moutier, 1827-1831, 
Vol. X. 8 Confessio Amantis, vi, 780-781. See p. 56, above. 

4 Le Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, 11. 380-383. 


The position of the lady with regard to the lover is the conven- 
tional one of superiority. The feudal figure is employed. The lover 
is a vassal and makes his vows to be a true and devoted servant. 
Describing his first sight of the Duchess, he expresses the very 
old sentiment : > _ purely tho myn owne thoght ^^ 1* 

Seyde hit were bet serve hir for noght 

Than with another to be wel. 1 

The idea is reiterated in the lines : 

But as my wit coude best suffysej? hlg 
After my yonge childly wit, 
Withoute drede, I besette hit 
To love hir in my beste wyse, 
To do hir worship and servyse 
That I tho coude, by my trouthe, 
Withoute feyning outher slouthe. 

After the usual fortunes of the lover, the lady came to under- 
stand that he . . . ne wilned thing but good, *M 

And worship, and to kepe hir name 

Over al thing, and drede hir shame, 

And was so besy hir to serve, 

and so she gave him " al hooly the noble yift of hir mercy " ; 
and, as he says of himself, 

In alle my youthe, in alle chaunce, 11^5 

She took me in hir governaunce. 

In the attitude of the lady toward the lover, conventional ideas 
appear, partly in allusions and partly in actual description. In 
his raptures over her eyes, the lover remarks : 

Her eyen semed anoon she wolde 
Have mercy ; fooles wenden so ; 
But hit was never the rather do ; 

1 We may compare this statement with the following words of the Provengal 
Rambaud d'Orange : 

E platz mi mais viure desesperatz, 

Que si ieu fos altra domn' amatz (Raynouard, III, 17). 


But ever, me thoghte, hir eyen seyde, V 7 fe 
" By god, my wrathe is al foryive ! " 

The same idea of the lady's wrath is alluded to in the poet's 
question to the lover, regarding his loss : 

" What los is that, sir? " quod I tho ;> " 3< V 

" Nil she not love yow ? is it so ? 

Or have ye oght y-doon amis, 

That she hath left yow ? is hit this ? " 

The lover, telling of his fear to speak his passion, explains : 

... I durste noght 
For al this worlde telle hir my thoght, 
Ne I wolde have wratthed hir trewely, 

and again, he tells how he debated within himself : 

And, but I telle hir, I nam but deed ; J 
And if I telle hir, to seye sooth, 
I am adred she wol be wrooth. 

All these allusions indicate the conventional attitude of indiffer- 
ence on the lady's part. 

The effects of the lover's passion are set forth in the usual 
way : he suffers sorrow and woe ; yet he is silent because he fears 
to tell his love. When he finally speaks, only to be refused, his 

woe is greater than ever. 

Alias ! that day 

The sorwe I suffred, and the wo ! 
That trewly Cassandra, that so 
Bewayled the destruccioun 
Of Troye and of Ilioun, 
Had never swich sorwe as I tho. 
I durste no more say therto 
For pure fere, but stal away ; 
And thus I lived f ul many a day : 
That trewely, I hadde no need 
Further than my beddes heed 
Never a day to seche sorwe ; 
I fond it redy every morwe. 


The lover finds, however, the conventional relief from his 
sorrows. The sight of his lady is a sovereign remedy: 

wonder fayn I wolde hir see. 
So mochel hit amended me, 
That, whan I saw hir first amorwe, 
I was warished of al my sorwe 
Of al day after, til hit were eve ; 
Me thoughte nothing mighte me greve, 
Were my sorowes never so smerte. 

In this the lover shows that he is availing himself of the com- 
forts promised by the god of Love to his followers : Dous- 
Penser, Dous-Parler, and Dous-Regard. 1 It was the last of 
these which came to the relief of the lover. Another solace he 
found, too, like the unhappy Aurelius, in making " songs, 
compleintes, roundels, virelayes." 2 

Trewely I did my besinesse 

To make songes, as I best coude, 

And ofte tyme I song hem loude ; 

And made songes a gret del . . . 

. . . songes thus I made 

Of my feling, myn herte to glade. 

Here again, he did what all lovers were expected to do, and 
what was commanded by the god of Love in the Romance of 
the Rose. It was a part of the god's directions to the lover, 

... for thy lady sake 
Songes and complayntes that thou make. 8 

Another conventional effect of the lover's passion is seen in 
the usual experience of confusion and loss of speech, fear and 
loss of color, when attempting to declare his love : 

1 ge te doing 

Trois autres biens, qui grans solas 
Font & ecus qui en mes las. 

Roman de la Rose, 11. 2728-2730. 
2 Franklin's Tale, 1. 948. 8 Romance of the Rose, 11. 2325-2326. 


I not wel how that I began, 

Ful evel rehersen hit I can ; 

And eek, as helpe me god withal, 

I trowe hit was in the dismal, 

That was the ten woundes of Egipte, 

For many a word I over-skipte 

In my tale, for pure fere 

Lest my wordes mis-set were. 

With sorweful herte, and woundes dede, 

Softe and quaking for pure drede, 

And shame, and stinting in my tale 

For ferde, and myn hewe al pale, 

Ful ofte I wex bothe pale and reed ; 

Bowing to hir, I heng the heed ; 

I durste not ones loke hir on, 

For wit, manere, and al was gon. 

I seyde " mercy ! " and no more ; 

Hit was no game, hit sat me sore. 

The favorite conceit of Chretien de Troies, that love enters the 
heart through the eyes, also appears. 

There remain to be noted two ideas, which are not merely 
literary conventions, but which perhaps reflect views held by 
contemporary lovers. The first is one which we have already 
met, that it is the paramount duty of young people to engage 
in the service of love. As far back as Andreas, the god of 
Love is represented as meting out punishment to those who do 
not serve him. Gower uses the idea in connection with his tale 
of Rosiphelee. 1 Pandarus refuses to believe that Criseyde will 
not, in time, bestow her favor upon Troilus, since 

Was never man ne woman yet bigete 
That was unapt to suffren loves hete 
Celestial, or elles love of kinde, 

1 Among the gentil nacion 
Love is an occupacion 
Which forto kepe his lustes save 
Scholde every gentil herte have. 

Confessio Amantis, iv, 1451-1454. 


and Criseyde, as he says, was never " celestial." When Troilus, 
too, came to experience the tender passion, which, although he 
had reached the years of maturity, he had never felt, this same 
priest of Love, Pandarus, welcomed him into the fold as a repent- 
ant sinner, one whom Loye of his goodne$se 

Hath . . . converted out of wikkednesse. 1 

And so the sorrowing knight of our poem tells how from his 
youth, since he had had any comprehension or understanding, 
he had been tributary to Love and had become his thrall, with 
good will, body, heart, and all. This childish love remained for 
a long time purely ideal, unbestowed upon anyone, but ready to 
be transformed into a real passion for his lady, when he should 
meet her : ^nd tn i s was longe, and many a yeer 

Or that myn herte was set o-wher, 

That I did thus, and niste why. 

This feature Chaucer took from Machaut. 2 

The other idea to be noted is that lovers must go on expedi- 
tions in order to win favor with their ladies. The knight, in 
speaking of the sincerity of the Duchess, says that she did not 

. . . sende men into Walakye, J e 
To Pruyse and into Tartarye, 
To Alisaundre, ne into Turkye, 
And bidde him faste anoon that he 
Go hoodies to the drye see, 

1 Troilus and Criseyde, i, St. 143. 

2 Coulton (Chaucer and his England, pp. 223 ff.) mentions, as an excellent 
comment on the passage, the conversation between the little Saintre and the 
lady of the Fair Cousins. Calling the little Jehan, who was then only thirteen 
years old, before her, she makes him miserable by demanding of him the 
name of the lady whom he loves best par amours, and how long it is since he 
had seen her. Unable to answer her, because he did not understand the 
mystery of love par amours, he is dismissed in disgrace. But he is called up 
another day, and another, and yet another, until, in order to escape her badger- 
ing, the little fellow confesses to her in tears that she herself is his love 
(Jehan de Saintrt, chap, iii, pp. 8 ff.). 


And come hoom by the Carrenar ; 
And seye, " Sir, be now right war 
That I may of yow here seyn 
Worship, or that ye come ageyn ! " 
She ne used no suche knakkes smale. 

Machaut, in his Dit du Lion, describes different kinds of lovers. 
One kind, he says, are the " dous, humble, courtois," who go 
beyond the seas into forays, battles, and upon various adventures, 
in order that they may stand high in their ladies' favor. When 
they return, their stay with their ladies is but short, "for if 
there should be an expedition into Austria or Bohemia, into 
Hungary or Denmark, or into any foreign land, . . . into France 
or into England, they would go there to seek honor." 1 Gower 
also, as we have seen, refers to the same custom. It is note- 
worthy that neither Chaucer nor Gower treats it sympathetically. 
Gower devotes one hundred and twenty-two lines to arguments 
against the notion that lovers must approve themselves in arms ; 
and the knight, in Chaucer's poem, names the sending of lovers 
on such expeditions as one of the things his perfect lady did 
not do, with the significant comment, 

She ne used no suche knakkes smale. 

Enough has been said to prove that the conventions of courtly 
love are abundantly represented in the Book of the Duchess ; 
indeed, they make up most of the six hundred lines with which 
we are especially concerned. Here, as elsewhere in Chaucer's 
love-poetry, the originality consists not in the invention of new 
material, but in the vitality he infuses into what is old and out- 
worn. How, then, does this vitalization appear in the Book of 
the Duchess ? First of all, in the setting. The spring morning 
with the songs of birds, blue skies, green fields and woods and 
beautiful flowers, had been used as setting for love-poems for 
hundreds of years. Yet, when Chaucer employs it, we at once 

1 Les (Euvres de Guillaume de Machault, ed. P. Tarbe, Paris, 1849, PP- 4O ff. 


feel that freshness which is characteristic of so much of his 
work. When he describes the singing of birds, the bright sun- 
light streaming through his windows, the clear sky, old ideas 
take on new life under his touch, and we feel in them a charm 
that defies analysis. We forget the triteness of the matter in 
the vividness of its presentation. 

Something more than mere convention appears, too, in the 
character of the lover-knight. In describing his passion for 
the fair duchess, he repeats ideas that have been in use since 
the time of the troubadours. Yet we are persuaded that his 
passion is genuine. His account of his lady's perfections is 
hyperbolical ; yet we attribute the exaggeration to love and grief. 

Most of all does Chaucer's originality appear in the treatment 
of the lady. For, though the details are not original, they are 
so skilfully combined that there emerges what Lowell has called 
" one of the most beautiful portraits of a woman that were ever 
drawn." l Even after the parallels in Machaut are noted, ex- 
tending even to identity of phrase, one remains persuaded that 
the character is that of the Duchess Blanche and no other. In 
his description of her Chaucer reveals for the first time that 
sympathetic insight into woman's nature which has given us the 
pictures of Criseyde, the Prioress, Constance, and, we are all 
glad to add, the Wife of Bath. His imagination, too, was 
surely quickened by personal attachment. Mere desire to com- 
pliment a patron will not account for the impression conveyed. 
We feel certain that Chaucer knew the Duchess well, that he 
loved her and honored her, and came under the sway of her 
beauty and " womanly noblesse." 

The House of Fame 

Something with regard to love and lovers was intended to be 
the culmination of the House of Fame. This, I think, Professor 

1 Conversations on Some of the Old Poets, p. 89. 


Sypherd has shown conclusively. 1 But Chaucer left the poem 
unfinished, and what we have of it is, in a way, an introduction, 
just as the Ceyx and Alcyone and the other parts of the Book 
of the Duchess are introductory to the interview with the knight 
in black ; and just as, in the Parliament of Fowls, the account 
of the dream and the description of the Temple of Venus lead 
up to the love story of the birds. Except for the general plan 
and structure of the poem, which Chaucer found in the old 
French love-visions, the actual love element in the House of Fame 
is very slight. It is practically confined to two passages : (i) that 
part of Book I which tells the story of ^Eneas and Dido and 
of the other women of antiquity who were betrayed by false 
lovers ; 2 and (2) the lines in Book II in which the eagle explains 
the purpose of the poet's aerial journey. 3 We may take up the 
second of these passages first. 

The poet professes to be, not a lover himself, but one who 
is interested in the subject as an outsider. Jupiter has observed 
how he has for a long time served Cupid and Venus without 
any reward ; but his service, we learn, had not been that of a 
lover. It had consisted in writing praises of the Art of Love, 
and in composing " bokes, songes, dytees " in honor of the deit/ 
and his servants. Love had neglected or refused to advance his 
interests ; yet he had persevered in humble devotion. This atti- 
tude of mind on Chaucer's part is here expressed for the first 
time. It is maintained, however, in the Parliament of Fowls, 
in the Troilus and Criseyde, and in the Prologue to the Legend 
of Good Women.^ Jupiter is now about to reward the poet by 

1 Sypherd, Studies in Chaucer's " Hous of Fame'' p. 15. 

2 Bk. i, 11. 238-432. 8 Bk. ii, 11. 606-698. 
4 Cf. also the lines : 

What shulde I speke more queynte, 
Or peyne me my wordes peynte 
To speak of love ? hit wol not be. 
I can not of that facultee (i, 245-248). 


letting the eagle conduct him to a place where he shall have 
some " disport and game " in return for his unselfish devotion 
to Love. There he shall hear wonderful things of " Loves folk," 
some of which the eagle mentions in detail. This passage, as 
Dr. Sypherd has shown, 1 clearly announces the ultimate purpose 
of the poem ; and the announcement is confirmed later, when 
Chaucer, in reply to the question of the man who stood at his 
back in the House of Fame, says that he had come there, 

Some newe tydings for to lere . . . 

Tydings, other this or that, 

Of love, or swiche thinges glade. 

The story of Dido the poet tells as part of the picture he saw 
painted on the walls of the Temple of Venus. In less than fifty 
lines (if we disregard his digressions) he summarizes the fourth 
book of the ^Eneid, along with certain incidents from the earlier 
books. It is Chaucer's digressions, however, which concern us 
here. These consist of Dido's lament and of reflections in the 
poet's own person on the perfidy of men. 

The lament has only the slightest similarity to anything in 
Virgil. It is tender rather than wrathful, and the poet's sympa- 
thies are altogether with the forsaken queen. 2 True, he mentions 
Virgil's apology for ^Eneas, but his tone in repeating it is cool 
and almost perfunctory. 3 

The observations on the perfidy of men are in keeping with 
the modifications just noted. After telling of the treachery of 
./Eneas, Chaucer exclaims : 

Lo, how a woman doth amis, 

To love him that unknowen is, ... 

For this shal every woman finde 

That som man, of his pure kinde, 

Wol shewen outward the faireste, 

Til he have caught that what him leste ; 

1 P. 15. 2 Compare i, 315 ff., with JEneid, iv, 305-306. 3 i, 427-432. 


And thanne wol he causes finde, 
And swere how that she is unkinde, 
Or fals, or prevy, or double was. 1 

Again, after speaking of Dido's suicide as the result of her be- 
trayal, he denounces the faithlessness of lovers : 

But, welaway ! the harm, the routhe, 
That hath betid for swich untrouthe, 
As men may ofte in bokes rede, 
And al day seen hit yet in dede, 
That for to thenken hit, a tene is. 

And he cites the famous stories of Demophoon, Achilles, Paris, 
Jason, Hercules, and Theseus. 

The most noteworthy feature of these passages is their sym- 
pathy for women whose lovers have proved untrue. We need 
not hesitate to accept such utterances as sincerely expressive of 
Chaucer's own feelings. Indeed, that sense of the sadness of 
human life which so often manifests itself in his writings could 
find no more compelling cause for expression than man's faith- 
lessness and woman's sorrow. 

Parliament of Fowls 

The Parliament of Fowls is a tale of love. The first two 
stanzas of the Proem, and the last (the invocation to Venus), 
announce the author's intention in the clearest terms. The 
intervening stanzas prepare us for the vision, which makes up 
the body of the poem. 

The first lines of the Proem involve the same attitude of 
detachment toward love which we have already seen in the House 

1 With the last seven lines, we may compare Chaucer's statement of the 
conduct of Arcite in Anelida and Arcite : 

For he bar hir on honde of trecherye, 
And swoor he coude hir doublenesse espye, 
And al was falsnes that she to him mente. 

Anel. and Ar., 11. 157-159. 


of Fame ^ and which will appear later in the Troilus* and the 
Legend of Good Women? The poet is amazed at the "wonderful 
working" of Love on men's lives. 

Whan I on him thinke, 
Nat wot I wel wher that I wake or winke. 4 

Not that he knows anything about love at first hand ; but he 
often reads of the god's miracles and of his cruelty, and how he 
will be lord and master. All he can say is " God save swich a 
lord ! " 5 He then tells how he once had a dream after reading 
the Somnium Scipionis, and the poem closes with an invocation 
to Cytherea, who, as he says, caused him to have this dream. 

The vision begins with Scipio's conducting the poet to the 
gate of a beautiful park. Over the gate are inscriptions pro- 
claiming the joys and the griefs of loving. He hesitates to enter, 
but ''African" leads him in. Then comes a description of the 
park and of the wonders to be seen there. In a garden of Love 
there is of course an abundance of flowers, fountains, singing 
birds, and the music of instruments. Here also is " lord Cupid " 
with his arrows. The qualities and characteristics of lovers 
appear as Cupid's courtiers, 6 personified under the names Plai- 
sance, Aray, Lust, Curtesye, Craft, Delyt, Gentilnesse, Beautee, 
Youthe, Fool-hardinesse, Flaterye, Desyr, Messagerye, Mede, 
and so on. Here is also the brazen Temple of Venus, in which 
the poet hears the " hot sighs," and sees Priapus, Venus and 
her porter Richesse, Ceres and Bacchus, and the paintings of 
ancient lovers. Having dwelt upon the glories of the garden 
(as Boccaccio gives them in the Teseide 7 ), the poet is ready for 

1 Ll. 621-640. 2 i, st. 3 ; ii, st. 2, 3 ; iii, st. 6, 190-191. 

3 B Prologue, 11. 58-59, 81-83, 412-413, 490-491. 
* Ll. 6-7. Cf. Deschamps, Balade 475. 

5 This attitude of detachment he maintains in the vision itself. Cf. 11. 155 ff. 

6 Neilson, Origins <Srv., p. 142. Cf. p. 116. 

7 Bk.vii, st. 51 ff. See Furnivall, Trial Forewords, pp. 59 ff., and Skeat, 
Minor Poems, pp. Ixii ff. and Oxford Chaucer, I, 68-73. 


his story, the account of St. Valentine's day and of the rivalry 
of the three tercelets for the love of the " formel " eagle. This 
is the tale of love which was promised in the Proem. 

Each of the tercelets urges his claim, and representatives of 
the various classes of birds give their opinions on the question. 
Finally Nature, the presiding goddess, leaves the choice to the 
" formel " herself, who postpones her decision for a year. The 
story, we perceive, is very simple indeed ; but it is elaborated by 
Chaucer with extraordinary skill. 

The most interesting feature of the Parliament, for the pur- 
poses of this investigation, is the manner in which the author 
brings the conventions of courtly love into sharp contrast with the 
ideals of the bourgeoisie and the " vileins." Well-nigh every con- 
ceivable variety of opinion is expressed, from the " dunghill " bab- 
blings of the duck to the refined sentiments of the royal tercelet. 

The lady in this love-story is the formel eagle. She is por- 
trayed in the usual fashion. Her position of superiority comes 
out in the pleading of the tercelets ; she is the sovereign whom 
each serves, and whom each asks for favor and mercy. She is 
" of shap the gentileste," " the most benigne and the goodlieste," 
and is endowed with every virtue. Nevertheless, she is kept in 
the background, as convention requires. Her part in the action 
is confined to deferring her choice of suitor for a year. 

The qualities of the royal tercel are also those of the conven- 
tional lover. He is "wys and worthy, secree, trewe as stel." 
He is humble, as his manner of pleading shows : 

With bed enclyned and ful humble chere 
This royal tercel spak. 

His plea is also the conventional plea of lovers. Not as his mate, 
but as his lady sovereign, he chooses the formel eagle. He 
is all hers and will serve her ever. He cannot live long in his 
present pain ; therefore he begs her for mercy and grace, and 


beseeches her to consider his loyalty and have pity on his woe. 
If he is ever found unfaithful, disobedient, wilfully negligent, a 
boaster, or inconstant, he hopes he may be torn to pieces by the 
other fowls. None loves her so well as he, although she has 
made him no promises ; therefore she ought to have mercy on 
him. This is the only plea he can make. But he will serve her 
always, no matter where she may be. 

The skill which the poet displays in the contrast between this 
appeal and that of the next tercel is noteworthy. The fact that 
the latter is " of lower kinde " is made very clear by the absence 
from his speech of the extreme courtliness seen in the first ter- 
cel's pleading. And yet it is not entirely without courtly senti- 
ment. He loves her better than the first tercel, he says, and he 
has served her longer ; if the period of devotion is to be the 
basis of reward, her love and favor belong to him. He can say 
as well as his rival, that he will gladly submit to hanging if she 
ever finds him " fals, unkinde, j angler, rebel any wyse, or jalous," 
or if he does not conduct himself so as to keep her honor, at 
least so far as he has wit. His argument, though it makes some 
use of courtly terms, has much the sound of a business arrange- 
ment. We miss the perfect humility of the royal tercel, as well 
as his polish and refinement. 

The same business-like tone pervades the plea of the third 
tercel. " I do not boast of long service," he says, " but for all 
that it is as possible for me to die to-day of my woe, as it is for 
him who has been languishing for twenty years. Furthermore, 
one man's service of six months may be more satisfactory than 
that of another who has served for a long time." But he quickly 
tempers the boldness of the assertion by adding, " I do not say 
this with regard to myself ; for I can do no service that will 
please my lady. But I dare say, I am her truest liegeman, in 
short, until I die. I will be all hers and true to her in every 
way." By this courtly speech he avoids the sin of boasting. 


Having thus set forth the question in the elegant and grace- 
ful plea of the royal tercel and the mingled courtly and practi- 
cal observations of his two rivals, the poet proceeds to give the 
views of the lower orders of society. The other birds murmur 
at the long debate, and Nature decides to let each class of fowls 
choose a spokesman. The tercelet of the falcon speaks for the 
" foules of ravyne." His verdict is what we should expect : " Let 
the formel choose the worthiest in his knighthood, the greatest 
in dignity, the gentlest of blood ! " The water fowls are repre- 
sented by the goose, who gives as her judgment : " If she will 
not love him, let him love another." Nothing more opposed to 
courtly doctrine could be imagined. A lover was required to be 
true to his lady till death, even if she showed him no favor. 
This principle, indeed, is immediately asserted by the turtle-dove, 
speaking for seed-fowl : 

Nay, god f orbede a lover shulde chaunge ! 
Thogh that his lady evermore be straunge, 
Yet let him serve hir ever, til he be deed. 1 

And the sparrowhawk, taking up the cudgels for the courtly 
group, shows a fine contempt for the " parfit reson of a goos ! " 
Nobody but a churl would ever have thought of such a sentiment. 
Indeed, as the sparrowhawk says of a courtly lover, 

Hit lyth not in his wit nor in his wille 

to love another lady. 

It is of interest to note that the poet has ascribed to the 
" turtel " the courtly sentiment of constancy, although this bird 

1 Cf . Pandarus's question, " Shall a lover cease to serve his lady because 
she is indifferent ? " and his own reply : 

Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene 

To serve and love his dere hertes quene, 

And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve 

A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. Troilus, i, st. 117. 


represents the next to the lowest class in his social scale of 
fowls. 1 The reason is obvious. 2 

The duck, however, thinks it a great joke that anybody should 
continue to love a woman who cares nothing for him. As he 
says : " Who can find any reason or sense in that ? 

Ye, quek," yit quod the doke, ful wel and faire, 
" Ther been mo sterres, god wot, than a paire ! " 

This churlish prating is too much for the tercelet : 

" Now fy, cherl ! " quod the gentil tercelet, 
" Out of the dunghil com that word ful right, 
Thou canst noght see which thing is wel beset ; 
Thou farest by love as oules doon by light, 
The day hem blent, ful wel they see by night ; 
Thy kind is of so lowe a wrechednesse, 
That what love is, thou canst not see ne gesse." 

Here the tercelet merely gives expression to the feelings enter- 
tained by the courtly classes for the " vilains " from early times. 

1 In lines 323-329, Chaucer arranges the birds thus : " the foules of ravyne 
were hyest set ; and than the foules smale that eten as hem Nature wolde en- 
clyne, as worm." The " water-fowl " are lowest. This leaves the third place 
for the seed-fowl ; and strange to say, he puts the turtle in a lower class than 
the " lewed " cuckoo. This is Chaucer's own arrangement ; at least, it is not 
in the description of Alain (De Planctu Naturae, pp. 437-439), which seems to 
have influenced the poet here. But then, we need not hold the poet down to 
a scientific accuracy in the play of his humor. Besides, the real dispute is be- 
tween the courtly set and the " vileins " represented by the goose and the duck. 

2 Courtly love did not demand such devotion as this. Andreas's dictum on 
this was that two years of widowhood was long enough to elapse before taking 
a new love. " Biennalis viduitas pro amante defuncto superstiti prescribitur 
amanti " (Longer Code, Rule 7, p. 316). The constancy of the turtle in its love 
was proverbial. For example : " Illic turtur, suo viduata consorte, amorem 
epilogare dedignans, in altero bigamiae refutabat solatia" (Alain de Lille, 
De Planctu Naturae, p. 439). Also : 

Turtre eo est oisel simple, caste, e bel, 

E sun malle aime tant, que ja a sun vivant 

Altre malle nen averat, ne puis que il murrat 

Ja altre ne prendrat, tut tens puis le plaindrat, 

Ne sur vert ne serad. Bestiary of Philip de Thaun. 


Compare the opening lines of Jean de Conde's Des Vilains et 

des Courtois : vilain et courtois sont contraire ; 
De 1'un ne puet on bien retraire, 
Et en 1'autre n'a fors que bien. 

The " vilain " was regarded as contemptible in every way. But 
especially despicable, it was thought, were his views of love. For 
love in any true sense was absolutely unknown to him. Literature 
abounds in statements of this idea. 2 It is clear, then, that with 
the scoffing of the duck at the idea of constancy in love, and the 
contemptuous retort of the tercelet, the debate reaches its climax. 
But there is yet one report to be heard. The cuckoo crowds 
to the front to give the verdict for worm-fowl. " So I get my 
mate," he says, " I do not care how long this debate lasts." I 
fear the cuckoo does not really represent his party. Although 
he belongs to the second rank of fowls, he is, according to the 
mediaeval standard, " vilain," 3 because his characteristics are 
those of a " vilain," 4 just as the turtle would be judged "cortois." 
Nothing could be more " vilainish " than the sentiments of the 
cuckoo, not even those of the duck and the goose. And the 
merlin, again one of the " fouls of ravyne," proceeds to anni- 
hilate him ; there is a splendid finality in the merlin's closing 

Go, lewed be thou whyl the world may dure ! 
This ends the debate, and, as Nature says, 

In effect yet be we never the nere. 

The poet now returns to the main theme of the story, and 
quickly brings it to an end by having Nature submit the ques- 
tion to the " formel " herself, with the result already mentioned. 

1 Dits et Contes, ed. Scheler, Brussels, 1866, III, 189 ff. 

2 See on this whole subject G. Paris, Romania, XXIV, 142 ff. Particu- 
lar reference may be made to the Roman de la Rose, 11. 2163-2170; Le Clef 
d" 'Amours (in Suchier's Bibliotheca Normannica, Vol. V, Halle, 1890), 11. 173- 
180; Florance et Blancheflor, 11. 9-11 ; Li Fablel dou Dieu d' Amours, p. 17. 

8 Adjectival use. * Galpin, Cortois and Vilain, p. 10. 


The Parliament of Fowls is certainly a love-vision, as 
Dr. Sypherd has shown. 1 It is also a love-debate, and as such 
has been well compared by Koeppel with the Old French 
Florance et Blanche flor. 2 In this the birds are the barons of the 
god of Love, and take part in discussing a question submitted by 
Florance and Blancheflor to him. No doubt Chaucer was writ- 
ing under the general influence of this genre. But he has 
cleverly complicated the usual scheme, for the Parliament is 
in fact a double debate. 

The primary question at issue is, which of the three tercelets 
shall win the formel ? This might have been decided by 
Nature on the basis of their several pleas, in which case the 
simplest form of love-debate would have been followed. But 
the intervention of the goose precipitates a general discussion, 
which quickly introduces a new question, whether a lover 
should be loyal to his lady under all circumstances. This second 
problem had been treated by Machaut in two poems, Le Juge- 
ment dou Roy de Behaigne and Le Jugement dou Roy de 
Navarre ; and it was elaborately discussed by the authors of 
Les Cent Balades* not so very long after the date of the 
Parliament of Fowls. In the Parliament, however, the contest 
is not between two classes of courtly lovers, as in the French 
poems, but between "cortois" and "vilain." Here the birds 
line up on two sides : the seed fowls, holding with the courtly 
group represented by the " foules of ravyne," and the worm- 
eating birds with the " vilains," represented by the waterfowl. 

1 Studies in the "Hous of Fame," pp. 20 ff. 

2 In Herrig's Archiv, XC, 149-150. Courthope (History of English Poetry, 
I, 270) says the idea of a council of birds is taken from the Old French 
Hueline and Eglantine. 8 Cf. pp. 34 ff., above. 


Troilus and Criseyde 

For a correct appreciation of Chaucer's genius, as exhibited 
in his great love-poem, the Troilus and Criseyde, a knowledge 
of the nature of the love therein treated and of the limitations 
within which the poet, voluntarily or involuntarily, worked, is 
particularly necessary. Only with such a knowledge can the 
characters and actions of the personages of the poem be under- 
stood. It is perfectly obvious that neither Chaucer nor Boccaccio 
was attempting to reproduce the life of the Trojans in the heroic 
age. It is equally obvious, although perhaps it is not always so 
regarded, that our opinion of the lovers should not be formed 
entirely on the basis of present-day ideas. To both Boccaccio 
and Chaucer, Troilus and his lady were contemporary young 
people, and their love affair is related in terms of contemporary 
life. Since they belong to the appropriate rank in society, they 
are treated as courtly lovers. The most casual reading of the 
poem shows this. Yet the fact is often forgotten by critics and 
commentators, and it is worth while to examine, somewhat in 
detail, the courtly elements which appear in the Troilus, and 
which agree with the principles of the system as they have been 
already expounded. 

One of the commonest sentiments in the love-poetry of the 
troubadours, in that of Chretien, and in the book of Andreas, 
was that love is not only good in itself, but is the cause and 
origin of all good. This idea appears in Pandarus's words to 
the love-stricken Troilus : 

And f or-thy loke of good comfort thou be ; 

... for nought but good it is 

To loven wel, and in a worthy place ; 

Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace (i, 1 28). 1 

1 The references are to the Books and Stanzas of the Troilus. 


The ennobling nature of love finds many expressions in the 
Troilus; the most important are perhaps the following. Chaucer 
himself speaks in the lines : 

And ofte it [Love] hath the cruel herte apesed 

And worthy folk maad worthier of name 

And causeth most to dreden vyce and shame (i, 36). 

Elsewhere, in the proem to Book III, he imputes this power of 
abstract love to Venus, the goddess of Love : 

Algates hem that ye wol sette afyre, 

They dreden shame, and vices they resigne, 

Ye do hem corteys be, fresshe and benigne (iii, 4). 

Antigone, to the same effect, sings in praise of the lover's life : 

This is the righte lyf that I am inne, 
To flemen alle manere vyce and sinne : 
This doth me so to vertu for to entende, 
That day by day I in my wil amende (ii, 1 22). 

And the hero of .the poem himself furnishes a concrete example 
of the ennoblement of one's nature by love : 

Thus wolde Love, yheried be his grace, 

That pryde, envye, ire, and avaryce 

He gan to flee, and every other vyce (iii, 258). 

Another principle which seems to have been commonly ac- 
cepted, was that to be in love is the normal condition for suitable 
young people. We have seen this idea expressed in the Book 
of the Duchess, 1 and also in the Confessio Amantis? Pandarus 
teaches the same doctrine in the lines : 

Was never man ne woman yet bigete 
That was unapt to suffren loves hete 
Celestial, or elles love of kinde (i, 140). 

It is a natural inference that love ought not to be resisted. 
The god of Love is often represented as punishing those who 

1 Ll. 775-777- 2 i 


attempt to stand out against his power. This sentiment is voiced 
by Criseyde, speaking to Troilus : 

Lo herte myn, as wolde the excellence 

Of love, ayeins the which that no man may 

Ne oughte eek goodly maken resistence . . . 

This droof me for to rewe upon your peyne (iii, 142). 

A doctrine prominent in Andreas's work is that a woman is 
responsible for the love her beauty arouses, and she cannot 
therefore justifiably refuse to grant her favor. This, in Andreas, 
has a sensual connotation. It got to be a convention in later 
times, with the sensual element minimized or absent altogether. 
Pandarus expresses the idea when endeavoring to comfort 
Troilus. Since everybody, he says, is apt (in the old sense of 
the word) to experience love, 

Celestial or elles love of kinde, 

and since Criseyde is far too young and beautiful to go into a 
monastery, k sete hir wd rfght nouthe 

A worthy knight to loven and cheryce, 

And but she do, I holde it for a vyce (i, 141). 

Later he argues the point at length with Criseyde herself, when 
he tries to prove her responsibility in the matter of granting 
Troilus her love (ii, 46-50). The dialectic skill of this passage 
is Pandarus's own ; but the basic principle of his argument was 
well established, and Criseyde seems to have recognized it. 

Another familiar principle of the courtly system was that 
love obtained too easily is not prized. Pandarus advances this 
argument to reassure Troilus, when he despairs of gaining the 
favor of Criseyde. " Think," he says, " of the oak ; under the 
repeated stroke of the woodman's axe, it must eventually fall. 
Remember also that a slender reed, when the wind blows on it, 
will bend to the ground and then become erect. Not so the oak. 
When it is blown to the ground, it is down for good and all. 


It nedeth me nought thee longe to forbyse. 

Men shal rejoysen of a greet empryse 

Acheved wel, and stant with-outen doute, 

Al han men been the lenger ther-aboute" (ii, 199). 

Most of these doctrines are put into the mouth of Pandarus. 
The same authority on love matters also reminds Criseyde of 
the importance of constancy, which was another cardinal prin- 
ciple. He says : " If a woman pretend to love a man and calls 
him * leef ' and * dere herte,' and at the same time loves another, 

She doth hirself a shame, and him a gyle " (iii, 1 1 1). 

We have seen that according to the conventional teaching, 
jealousy in husbands was to be deprecated ; but in lovers par- 
amours, it was natural and even requisite. The former idea 
Criseyde expresses in the lines: 

Shal noon housbonde seyn to me " chekmat ! " 

For either they ben ful of jalousye, 

Or maisterful, or loven novelrye (ii, 108). 

She refers to the latter in that tender, pathetic scene where she 
speaks to Troilus of his jealousy : 

Eek al my wo is this, that folk now usen 

To seyn right thus, " ye, Jalousye is Love! " 

And wolde a busshel venim al excusen, 

For that o greyn of love is on it shove ! (iii, 147). 

Here she has in mind the courtly doctrine, and it is noteworthy 
that she shows little patience with such ideas. She calls Troilus's 
jealousy " swich folye," though she attributes it to his love for 
her. And she takes Jove to task for allowing such an evil spirit 
o exist. 

But tha( . wot heigne god tnat sit 

If it be lyker love, or hate, or grame ; 

And after that, it oughte bere his name (iii, 147). 

Once more, the courtly love ideas appear in the numerous 
passages dealing with the relation of the lover to his lady. 


Pandarus, in his endeavor to arouse his lovesick friend to some 
action, well expresses the general doctrine of service. He 
argues that, even though Troilus has no prospects of being 
taken into the lady's favor, he should not for that reason fall 

into despair. 

Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene 

To serve and love his dere hertes quene, 

And thenke it is a guerdoun hir to serve 

A thousand-fold more than he can deserve (i, 1 1 7). 

The attitude of humility which Pandarus here advises is actually 
assumed by Troilus in the story, and in describing it Chaucer 
shows his peculiar skill in the language of love. Noticeable in 
this respect is the use of the feudal figure in Troilus's speech 
to the god of Love, soon after he has been smitten by the 
beauty of Criseyde in the temple : 

But whether goddesse or womman, y-wis, 
She be, I noot, which that ye do me serve ; 
But as hir man I wole ay live and sterve. 
Ye stonden in hire eyen mightily, 
As in a place un-to your vertu digne ; 
Wherfore, lord, if my servyse or I 
May lyke yow, so beth to me benigne ; 
For myn estat royal here I resigne 
In-to hir hond, and with ful humble chere 
Bicome hir man, as to my lady dere (i, 61-62). 

And the poet goes on to tell how all the hero's desire was 
directed to " this conclusion " 

That she on him wolde have compassion, 

And he to be hir man, whyle he may dure (i, 67). 

Similarly, Diomed professes to take Criseyde for his sovereign 
But herte myn, sin that I am your man, 

grant me permission to come to-morrow, and 

At better leyser, telle yow my sorwe (v, 135). 


It is not necessary to call attention to the many passages 
where the idea of the lover's service is brought out. But one 
variation which Chaucer's poem shows from Boccaccio's may 
be cited as a striking example of the use of courtly love-ideas 
in describing the relations between the two lovers. In Boccac- 
cio's story, just before Griseida's departure for the Grecian 
camp, Troilo says to her : 

Non mi sospinse ad amarti bellezza 
La quale spesso altrui suole irretire ; 
Non mi trasse ad amarti gentilezza 
Che suol pigliar de' nobili il desire ; 
Non ornamento ancora, non ricchezza 
Mi fe' per te amor nel cor sentire : 
Delle qua' tutte se' piu copiosa, 
Che altra fosse mai donna amorosa. 

Ma gli atti tuoi altieri e signorili, 
II valore e '1 parlar cavalleresco, 
I tuoi costumi piu ch' altra gentili, 
Ed il vezzoso tuo sdegno donnesco, 
Per lo quale apparien d'esserti vili 
Ogni appetito ed oprar popolesco, 
Qual tu mi se', o donna mia possente, 
Con Amor mi ti miser nella mente. 

Now practically these same sentiments are put by Chaucer into 
the mouth of Criseyde. Thus the heroine is given an added 
dignity, which is in close conformity with the courtly concep- 
tion. Perhaps the best description, on the whole, of the lover's 
attitude, and the clearest assertion of the lady's superiority, is 
found in Troilus's words in his interview with Criseyde at the 
house of Deiphebus : 

And than agreen that I may ben he, 
Withoute braunche of vyce in any wyse, 
In trouthe alway to doon yow my servyse, 
As to my lady right and chief resort, 
With al my wit and al my diligence, 


And I to ban, right as yow list, comfort, 

Under your yerde, egal to myn offence, 

As deeth : if that I breke your defence ; 

And that ye deigne me so muche honoure, 

Me to comaunden ought in any houre 

And I to been your verray humble trewe, 

Secret, and in my paynes pacient, 

And ever-mo desire freshly newe, 

To serven, and been y-lyke ay diligent, 

And, with good herte, al hooly your talent 

Receyven wel, how sore that me smerte, 

Lo, this mene I, myn owene swete herte (iii, 19-21). 

Consequent upon the superiority of the lady, are not only the 
many perturbations of the lover, but also her own coldness and 
indifference. Chaucer cannot tell whether Criseyde did not 
know of Troilus's sorrows, or whether she feigned she did not : 

But wele I rede that, by no maner weye, 

Ne semed it [as] that she of him roughte, 

Nor of his peyne, or what-so-ever he thoughte (i, 71). 

Pandarus, after persuading Criseyde to write to Troilus, says : 

But ye have played tyraunt neigh to longe, 
And hard was it your herte for to grave ; 

and he tells her right out that it is time to make some show of 
mercy to Troilus. Criseyde had been acting just as any lady 
would have done, as Pandarus's words show : 

But thus ye faren, wel neigh alle and some, 

That he that most desireth yow to serve, 

Of him ye recche leest wher he bicome, 

And whether that he live or elles sterve (ii, 165). 

The courtly love doctrine most prominent in the Troilus is 
perhaps the doctrine of secrecy. The importance attached to 
this idea is, of course, due to the nature of the love treated in 
the poem. We have seen that, although the same conventions 
came to be employed in the treatment of the various kinds of 


love, in that love which was in essence sensual the demand for 
secrecy was a real one. It needs no argument, of course, to prove 
the sensual element in the love of Troilus and Criseyde for each 
other. Obviously Pandarus knew to wkat end all this affair 
tended ; and if Pandarus understood, it follows that Troilus did. 1 
It is equally clear, I think, that Criseyde knew what was implied 
in granting her love to Troilus. This question, as well as the 
prominence given in the poem to the idea of secrecy, and its 
bearing upon the personal character of the heroine, will be con- 
sidered in our study of Criseyde. Here it is important to realize 
that the nature of the love which Chaucer treats in his great 
erotic work is that of the love par amours of the days of Marie 
of Champagne and of her mother Eleanor. 

In connection with the conventional doctrines in the Troilus 
and Criseyde, it may be well to cite some of Chaucer's uses of 
conceits common in love-poetry. The favorite conception 4 of the 
troubadours and Chretien de Troies, that beauty was the cause 
of love, making its attack through the eyes of the lover, appears 
in Chaucer's poem in the lines : 

Yet with a look his herte wex a-fere 

That he, that now was most in pryde above, 

Wex sodeynly most subget unto love (i, 33). 

The commonplace idea of the fatal potency of the beautiful 
being's eyes Chaucer frequently expresses : 

Lo, he that leet himselven so konninge, 

And scorned hem that loves peynes dryen, 

Was ful unwar that love hadde his dwellinge 

Within the subtile stremes of hir yen ; 

That sodeynly him thoughte he felte dyen, 

Right with hir look, the spirit in his herte, 

Blessed be love, that thus can folk converte ! (i, 44) ; 

1 Mr. Root evidently misses the point entirely, when he remarks : One 
feels that Pandarus has seduced him [Troilus] quite as much as he has Cri- 
seyde." Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, New York, 1906, p. 117. 


and again, 

Whan he was fro the temple thus departed, 
He streyght anoon un-to his paleys torneth, 
Right with hir look thu'rgh-shoten and thurgh-darted (i, 47). 

Troilus, making his confession to the god of Love, says : 

For certes, lord, so sore hath she me wounded 
That stod in black, with loking of hir yen, 
That to myn hertes botme it is ysounded, 
Thourgh which I woot that I mot nedes dyen (ii, 77). 

Later the lover addresses his lady's eyes : 

It were ye that wroughte me swich wo, 

Ye humble nettes of my lady dere ! 

Though ther be mercy writen in your chere, 

God wot, the text ful hard is sooth to finde (iii, 194). 

The classification given above shows that no important doc- 
trine of the courtly love of the early days is omitted in the 
Troilus. Chaucer is clearly working within the limits imposed 
by the principles and conventions of the system ; and only by 
recognizing this fact can we understand the spirit of the poem. 1 
Bearing it in mind, we may now proceed to our study of the 
principal characters ; and we shall begin with the lover himself. 

The sorrow of Troilus is the poet's primary theme : 

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen, 
That was the king Priamus sone of Troye, 
In lovinge, how his aventures fellen 
Fro wo to wele, and after out of joye 
My purpos is ... (i, i). 

However much besides this Chaucer tells, the idea of speak- 
ing of the ups and downs of lovers as woes and sorrows was 

1 Disregard of this fact by writers on Chaucer's poem is the only reason for 
the present analysis of the Troilus. Critics generally have formed the wrong 
conception of Chaucer's hero and heroine, the present writer believes, because 
they have failed to take into account the connection between the Troilus and 
the courtly love ideas. The latest instance of this is the recent work on Chau- 
cer by Legouis (Paris, 1910) ; see the study of the Troilus, pp. 116-127. 


conventional. It is unnecessary, therefore, to refer to the numer- 
ous places in which the author refers to his hero's pains, sighs, 
groans, and to his dying for love. Omitting these, we may note 
that Troilus exhibits the usual symptoms of courtly lovers : 

1. Sleeplessness, loss of appetite, and paleness. 

And fro this forth tho refte him love his sleep, 
And made his mete his f oo ; and eek his sorwe 
Gan multiplye, that whoso toke keep, 
It shewed in his hewe, both eve and morwe (i, 70). 

Chaucer again states, in his droll fashion, the same idea : 

Nil I nought swere, although he laye softe, 
That in his thought he nas sumwhat disesed 
Ne that he tornede on his pilwes ofte (iii, 64). 

2. Sickness. In arranging for the first meeting of the lovers 
at the house of Deiphebus, Pandarus's plan is for Troilus to 
feign sickness. 

Quod Troilus, " y-wis, thou nedeless 
. Counseylest me, that sykliche I me feyne ! 
For I am syk in ernest, douteless, 
So that wel neigh I sterve for the peyne " (ii, 219). 

3. Fear to tell his lady of his woe. Pandarus, anxious to help 
his friend, asks : 

But tel me, if I wiste what she were, 

For whom that thee al this misaunter ayleth, 

Dorstestow that I tolde hir in hir ere 

Thy wo, sith thou darst not thyself for fere, 

And hir bisoughte on thee to have som routhe? (i, 1 10.) 

4. Confusion and forgetfulness in the lady's presence. Troilus 
rehearses in his mind what he will say to Criseyde at Deiphebus's 
house (iii, 8) ; but when she speaks to him (10-1 1), he becomes 
speechless and 

... his lesson, that he wende conne 

To preyen hir, is thurgh his wit y-ronne (iii, 12). 


The rest of the interview is quite as difficult for Troilus. The 
poet describes him : 

In chaunged vois, right for his verrey drede, 
Which vois eek quook, and ther-to his manere 
Goodly abayst, and now his hewes rede, 
Now pale, unto Criseyde, his lady dere, 
With look doun cast and humble yolden chere, 
Lo, thalderfirste word that him asterte 
Was, twyes, " mercy, mercy, swete herte ! " 

We may next see how far the hero possesses the character of 
the conventional lover. Pandarus deftly sounds the praises of 
his friend in answering Criseyde's inquiry about Hector : 

And eek his fresshe brother Troilus, 

The wyse worthy Ector the secounde, 

In whom that every vertu list abounde, 

As alle trouthe and alle gentillesse, 

Wysdom, honour, fredom, and worthinesse (ii, 23). 

To which Criseyde replies that she hears how all those whose 
opinion is to be valued praise Troilus both for his noble conduct 
in the war and for his courtesy toward everybody while at home 
(ii, 27). Pandarus, taking advantage of the situation, gives a 
specific instance of Troilus's prowess, and adds that he is 

. . . the freendlieste man 

Of gret estat, that ever I saw my lyve (ii, 30). 

The object of Pandarus in this interview is, of course, to paint his 
friend's virtues in as glowing colors as possible. It is to be noted, 
however, that his praise of Troilus is confirmed by the reports 
which have reached Criseyde's ears, and by her own testimony 
later in the poem. 1 By common consent, then, Troilus is known 
for " trouthe," " alle gentillesse," "wysdom," "honour," "fre- 
dom," "worthinesse," "prowesse in war" and "courtesye," 
- for such virtues, in short, as were conventionally required of a 

1 Cf. ii, 95, 106. 


knight and a lover. The same qualities are attributed, in almost 
identical terms, to the model knight of the Prologue to the 
Canterbury Tales. 

Chaucer's own testimony concerning Troilus, as near as we 
may arrive at it, is consistent with that of Pandarus and Criseyde. 
In speaking of the effect which Pandarus's comforting words 
have had upon the sighing Troilus, he says : " But Troilus lay 
there no longer, but he mounted at once on his bay steed and 
played the lion in the field. Woe to the Greek that met him that 
day ! And in the town, from that time forth, his goodly manner 
got for him the love and favor of all. For he became the friend- 
liest creature, the gentlest, the most generous, the thriftiest 
(i.e. the most efficient in every way), and the very best knight 
that in his time was or might be. Gone were his jests and his 
cruelty, his supercilious bearing and his disdainful manner ; and 
each of these faults he exchanged for a virtue" (i, 155-156). 
This is Chaucer's own characterization of his hero, for no word 
of it is found in the Filostrato. But for a later description of 
the effect of love on Troilus, he is indebted to the Italian : 

In alle nedes for the tounes werre, 
He was, and ay the firste in armes dight ; 
And certeynly, but-if that bokes erre, 
Save Ector, most y-drad of any wight ; 
And this encrees of hardinesse and might 
Cam him of love, his ladies thank to winne, 
That altered his spirit so with-inne (iii, 254). 

And most of love and vertu was his speche, 
And in despyt hadde alle wrecchednesse ; 
And doutelees, no nede was him biseche 
To honouren hem that hadde worthinesse, 
And esen hem that weren in distresse (iii, 256). 

And though that he be come of blood royal, 
Him liste of pryde at no wight for to chase ; 
Benigne he was to ech in general, 


For which he gat him thank in every place. 
Thus wolde Love, y-heried be his grace. 
That Pryde, Envye, Ire, and Avaryce 
He gan to flee, and every other vyce (iii, 258). 

This passage, in Chaucer and Boccaccio alike, simply states the 
conventional effects of love on the lover, under the courtly system. 
It is clear that Chaucer intended his hero to be worthy of the 
spirited Criseyde and, as such, to have our sympathies. This is 
what we should expect a priori. Chaucer's primary interest in 
his mature productions is in characterization, and his method is 
distinctly dramatic. In none of his work is this truer than in 
the Troilus. 1 But however great his interest in character for 
itself, the Troilus still retains enough of the nature it had in the 
hands of Boccaccio to be called romance ; and, in treating it 
as romance, is it likely that the poet would give to his heroine, 
who attracted him and whom he wished to portray sympathet- 
ically, a lover unworthy of her admiration or that of the reader ? 
This could be done only on condition that she should not recog- 
nize his inferiority. Chaucer leaves no doubt as to Criseyde's 
opinion of Troilus ; she does not, as we have sen, regard him 
as inferior, but as entirely worthy of her love ; and the expres- 
sions with reference to him by Pandarus and by the author 
himself show the correctness of her estimate. To Chaucer, as 
to Criseyde, Troilus was a valiant warrior ; in prowess, second 
only to Hector. But the prominence which is given in the 
poem to another side of his nature is likely to produce a wrong 
total impression of him. We have seen that under the system of 
courtly love a knight, though absolutely fearless elsewhere, must 
tremble before his lady. If his conduct in love only were to be con- 
sidered, evidently our impression of him would be the wrong one. 
Both Dares, in his meagre account, and Benoit de Ste. Maure 

1 For a study of the dramatic features in the Troilus, see Price, A Study in 
Chaucer's Method of Narrative Construction, Publ. Modern Language Assoc., 
1896, XI, 307-322. 


describe Troilus as a valiant and thoroughly practical knight, 1 
and in taking him for their hero neither Boccaccio nor Chaucer 
wished to undervalue this element of his character. But for 
the purpose of their story, the emphasis is put on another side. 
They are interested in him primarily as a lover. As Chaucer 

savs And if I hadde y-taken for to wryte 

The armes of this ilke worthy man, 
Than wolde I of his batailles endyte. 
But for that I to wryte first bigan 
Of his love, I have seyd as that I can (v, 253). 

It seems to me, then, that one misses the spirit of the work if 
one regards Chaucer as having conceived his hero as an un- 
practical enthusiast, as a love-sick boy, who idealized not only 
his lady but also his passion for her. 2 The fact we should keep 

1 Chaucer, speaking of Troilus, tells us : 

His worthy dedes, whoso list hem here, 
Reed Dares, he can tell hem alle y-fere. 

The direction to " reed Dares " is a bit misleading, since all that writer gives 
in regard to Troilus is the description : " Troilum magnum, pulcherrimum, pro 
aetate valentem, fortem, cupidum virtutis," and later the words : 

Troilus Diomedem sauciat. 

(See Daretis Phrygii De Excidio Troiae Historia, ed. F. Meister, Leipzig, 1872, 
xii, 15; xxxi, 37.) Brief as this mention is, in describing him as "pro aetate 
valentem " and " cupidum virtutis " it gives the same idea that is seen in 
Benoit de Ste. Maure's lines : 

Poi est meins forz en son endreit 
Ne meins hardiz qu' Hector esteit ; 

Li Roman de Troie, ed. Constans, 
Paris, 1904-1908, 11. 3991-3992 

Tant come il ert en bon talent, 

Par esguardot si doucement, 

Que deliz ert de lui vesir ; 

Mais une rien vos di por veir, 

Qu' il ert envers ses enemies 

D'autre semblant e d'autre vis (ibid., 11. 5401-5406). 

2 Mr. R. K. Root's view. See Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, pp. 192-195 ff. 
Cf. "Bei Chaucer . . . ist er ein sproder Jungling " (Kissner, Chaiicer in seinen 
Beziehungen zur italienischen Litteratur, Bonn, 1867, p. 44). 


in mind is, that in presenting their hero, both Boccaccio and 
Chaucer portray him in accord with the established courtly con- 
vention as to what a lover should be ; and any seeming unprac- 
ticality of his can be satisfactorily explained by a consideration 
of him from this point of view. Certainly, we ought to estimate 
his conduct by such conventions, rather than by present-day ideas. 
Chaucer, in the character of Troilus, does not seriously 
modify the Troilo of Boccaccio. It is true, however, that the 
interest of the respective authors in their hero is different in 
degree and in kind. It is generally held that Boccaccio's story 
had an autobiographical purpose ; that in setting forth the story 
of Troilo's utter subjugation by his love for Griseida, the Italian 
author had in mind his own amour with the daughter of King 
Robert of Naples. 1 For Boccaccio, therefore, the story centered 
in Troilo and his sorrows. Chaucer's interest in Troilus, on 
the other hand, not only lacked this personal element, but was 
secondary to that which he felt for Criseyde ; for there is no 
doubt that Chaucer's stronger personal sympathies were with 
her, although the story is professedly written to tell the sorrows 
of Troilus. The poet himself undoubtedly felt the charms of 
his heroine. It is perhaps from a desire to magnify her attrac- 
tive qualities that he makes Troilus's affair with her the first 
love experience of the hero ; whereas, in Boccaccio, Troilo had 
often before felt the stings of love. To Troilo, the amour with 
Griseida was only one more in a series of love adventures ; 2 to 
Troilus, it is the first and last fatal passion. The victory of 
Love, working through the charms of Criseyde, was greater 
because he brought down one who felt himself superior to the 

1 Kissner, p. 42; Ebert, Review of Sandras's "Etude sur Chaucer" (trans- 
lated), Chaucer Society Publications, 1868, p. 14. 

2 I have herd told, pardieux, of your livinge, 
Ye lovers, and your lewede observaunces (i, 29). 
lo provai gia per la mia gran follia 
Qual fosse questo maladetto fusco. Filostrato, i, 23. 


powers of the god. If such was the purpose of the poet in 
changing this detail, it follows that to Chaucer Troilus was no 
weakling. Chaucer knew well what we often observe, that the 
traits of character which make a man strong in one direction 
make him equally strong in the opposite, when once his in- 
terests and activities have been changed. Pandarus seems to 
have seen such a man in Troilus ; for, in his ecclesiastical 
phraseology, he expresses this very idea : 

And, by my trouthe, I have right now of thee 

A good conceyt in my wit, as I gesse, 

And what it is, I wol now that thou see. 

I thenke, sith that love, of his goodnesse, 

Hath thee converted out of wikkednesse, 

That thou shalt be the beste post, I leve, 

Of al his lay, and most his foos to greve. 

Ensample why, see now these wyse clerkes, 

That erren aldermost ayein a lawe, 

And ben converted from hir wikked werkes 

Thorugh grace of god, that list hem to him drawe, 

Than arn they folk that han most god in awe, 

And strengest-feythed been, I understonde, 

And conne an errour alder-best withstonde (i, 143-144). 

Such a person is apt to feel deeply and intensely. I see no 
objection to conceiving Troilus to be one who had strong con- 
victions, together with a proud and supercilious manner of ex- 
pressing them. After he was overcome by his passion for 
Criseyde, the softening effect of love was seen in his change of 
conduct. As the poet tells us, he became the friendliest person 
in the city, the gentlest and the most generous : 

Dede were his japes and his crueltee, 
His heighe port and his manere estraunge, 
And ech of tho gan for a vertu chaunge (i, 155). 

But the very trait which before showed in the conviction that 
he was superior to love's charms, now shows in the constancy 
in love which he maintains to his death. 


There is, so far as I can see, nothing in the hero's conduct 
after his subjugation by love which is inconsistent with this 
conception of him. Mr. Root, in his handbook, says: "His 
[Troilus's] . . . main attention is absorbed in the process of 
idealizing the new-found mistress. It never occurs to him, how- 
ever, to take any active steps in his own behalf. 

' She nil to noon swich wrecche as I be wonne,' 

he thinks ; would God I were arrived in the port of death, to 
which my sorrow will lead me ! If Pandarus had not intervened, 
it is probable that Troilus would never have spoken a word to 
the lady of his heart. The love would have remained an ideal 
passion, like that of Petrarch for his Laura." * Nothing, it 
seems to me, could be more mistaken than the conclusion of this 
statement. It is true that Troilus, up to the time that he con- 
fided in Pandarus, did direct his attention to idealizing Criseyde ; 
that, however, was what every courtly lover was expected to do 
and did ; it is what most lovers do now-a-days. It is true, too, 
that as yet he had taken no active steps in his own behalf, and 
that he gave himself up to bewailing his misery. But here 
again Troilus was acting exactly like the conventional courtly 
lover. It was too early in the game for him to act for himself. 
" Love which is won too easily is not prized," was a dictum as 
old as the troubadours. Every lover was supposed to give him- 
self up for a time to self-abasement, and to become the play- 
thing of despair. When it occurred to him that he must die 
unless his lady knew of his sorrow, then it was time for him to 
act. We may not tell just how Chaucer would have made 
Troilus behave without Pandarus's intervention. But we may 
judge, perhaps, from what other lovers did in such circum- 
stances. To say nothing of the many lovers in the Old French 
literature, take the case of the knight in the Book of the Duchess. 

1 Root, p. 1 1 6. 


His lady knew nothing of his love for a long time, because he 
was afraid to tell her, lest he should make her angry. Only 
when he felt, But , tdle ^ , nam but dee<v 

did he muster up courage to speak his love. The unhappy 
Aurelius loved Dorigen 

Two yeer and more, as was his aventure, 
But never dorste he telle hir his grevaunce ; 
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce. 

But when he considered that he must die as did Echo for Nar- 
cissus, he found courage to tell Dorigen of the passion that was 
consuming him. The erotic literature of France and England 
of the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries indicates that platonic 
idealism was little known in these countries at that time. Troilus 
wanted Criseyde and wanted her badly ; and it is highly improb- 
able that his love would have remained an ideal passion like 
Petrarch's for Laura. On the contrary, it is safe to assume 
that it would have led him to seek his lady, as far as external 
circumstances permitted, and to beseech her favor, even had not 
Pandarus happened along at the proper moment. 2 In furnishing 

IB. of D., 1 1 88. 

2 Mr. Root (p. 117) quotes Troilus's statement, 

But herke, Pandare, o word, for I nolde ^ 
That thou in me wendest so greet folye, 
That to my lady I desiren sholde 
That toucheth harm or vilenye (i, 148), 

to show the platonic nature of the lover's affection. This is in fact a conven- 
tional sentiment ; Pandarus, far from considering it platonic, understands the 
conventionality of it, when he says : 

And I thy borw ? fy ! no wight dooth but so (i, 149). 

The best proof of the conventionality of the phrase is seen in the fact that 
Boccaccio makes Troilo say the same thing : 

Ed oltre a questo, Pandar, non vorria 

Che tu credessi che io disiassi 

Di cotal donna alcuna villania. Filostrato, ii, 31. 

Surely, no one thinks of the love of Troilo and Griseide as platonic ! 


him the character Pandarus, Chaucer's " author Lollius " en- 
abled him to manage the technique of his poem in accord with 
the conventional ideas ; for the intermediary between the lover 
and his lady was a recognized figure in mediaeval love affairs. 
The scope of the works of Boccaccio and Chaucer, however, 
allowed these authors highly to elaborate this feature ; and for- 
tunately for those who love Chaucer, the exercise of his genius 
has resulted in the magnificent portrayal of Pandarus. In hand- 
ing the management of his love affair over to Pandarus, Troilus 
does not, therefore, necessarily reveal his unpractical nature. 
Does his lack of action at the Parliament make such a revelation ? 
Chaucer gives as explanation of his hero's silence during the 
negotiations for the exchange of Criseyde, the fear that men 
might see his affection for her (iv, 22). Feeling thus, Troilus 
decides to await developments, having in mind two things : first, 
how to save her reputation ; second, how he might withstand the 
exchange in case the Parliament decreed it (iv, 23). This was 
a particularly hard problem for Troilus, since it was necessary to 
do both things at the same time. If he wished to defeat the 
purpose of the Parliament, he must do it in such a way as not 
to compromise Criseyde. Evidently, such a thing was impossible. 
But Chaucer assures us that his feelings were right in the matter : 

Love him made al prest to doon hir byde, 
And rather dye than she sholde go (iv, 24). 

A twentieth-century lover, in free America, might, in these cir- 
cumstances, have demanded his sweetheart in the face of all 
opposition, if he had the courage. Troilus had the inclination 
to do so. But what good would it have done ? What good did 
Hector's opposition to the proposed exchange do ? Yet Hector 
was more influential in Troy than was Troilus ; and he was not 
actuated by any motives of personal interest. Troilus saw all 
this; and saw, furthermore, that any open action on his part 


would not only be useless, but would destroy all hopes of future 
happiness with Criseyde. 

But resoun seyde him, on that other syde, 

* With-oute assent of hir ne do not so, 

Lest for thy werk she wolde be thy fo, 

And seyn, that through thy medling is y-blowe 

Your bother love, there it was erst unknowe ' (iv, 24). 

This would have spoiled everything. It was the business of the 
mediaeval lover to keep his liaison secret and to submit to the 
will of his mistress. Had it been the affair of husband and wife, 
the hero might have taken things into his own hands. -But Troilus 
and Criseyde were not married, and did not intend to be. Mere 
prudence directed him to do just what he did do ; to speak out 
at the Parliament would have been an action of unpractical 
ras ness. With mannes nerte ne gan nis sorwes ^yg ^ v> 2 2), 

and it seems clear that the poet intended him, in his trying situ- 
ation, to act like a man, reserving his indulgence in grief for the 
privacy of his room, instead of fainting in the presence of the 
Parliament like Boccaccio's hero, Troilo. 1 

In the interview with Pandarus which followed the decision 
of Parliament, Troilus, it seems to me, shows himself of no 
mean strength of character ; and it is equally clear, I think, that 
Chaucer here intends to present him in the best light possible. 
Pandarus finds him in the midst of lamentations over his cruel 
fate, and, in his practical way, makes some suggestions, 

... for the nones alle, 
To helpe his freend, lest he for sorwe deyde. 
For doutelees, to doon his wo to falle, 
He roughte not what unthrift that he seyde (iv, 62). 

His first suggestion is that Troilus take another mistress, since 
it is unavoidable that Criseyde go to the Grecian camp ; and he 

1 Filostrato, iv, 18. See on this point Kissner, p. 43. 


backs this up with his usual subtlety in argument. Troilus in his 
reply to this suggestion appears to good advantage, even if we 
measure his answer by present-day standards ; and certainly, if 
we judge it by those of mediaeval times. He says that Pandarus's 
suggestion would be very appropriate if he (Troilus) were a fiend. 
But since he has promised to be true to Criseyde, he will remain 
so, though he die. As for Pandarus's opinion that he may find 
a fairer mistress, such comparisons are useless ; he cannot agree. 
But above all, he has not the power to act on these suggestions ; 
and if he had, he would not do so. 

Thou most me first transmuwen in a stoon, 

And reve me my passiounes alle, 

Er thou so lightly do my wo to falle (iv, 67). 

Defeated in this argument, the ever ready Pandarus suggests 
the alternative of forcibly abducting Criseyde. Troilus's answer 
is noteworthy. He says that he had thought of all this before, 
and of much more than Pandarus suggested. Abduction was 
out of the question if he cared anything for his own reputa- 
tion ; everybody would blame him for opposing his father, 
since Criseyde was exchanged for the good of the town. 1 He 
had thought, he says, of asking Priam for Criseyde, provided 
she would consent (a very important proviso) ; but this would be 
sure to get her into trouble. The thing that he feared most of 
all was bringing slander upon his lady ; he would rather die 
than do this (iv, 81). His conclusion is that there is no way 
out of his difficulty. 

For certeyn is, sin that I am hir knight, 

I moste hir honour lever han than me 

In every cas, as lovere oughte of right. 

Thus am I with desyr and reson twight ; 

Desyr for to distourben hir me redeth, 

And reson nil not, so myn herte dredeth (iv, 82). 

1 iv, 78-79. 


Only one alternative is left to be considered ; that is, for 
Troilus to marry Criseyde. Why does not marriage occur to him 
and to her ? Kissner, in considering why both Boccaccio and 
Chaucer have made their heroine a widow, explains : " Hatte 
er Chryseis als junges Madchen dargestellt, so ware die ganze 
Verwickelung der Knotenschurzung weggef alien." For, he ex- 
plains, when Calchas asked for his daughter, all the hero would 
have had to do would have been to step forth and claim her as 
his wife. This would have left out the faithlessness of the hero- 
ine, and would have made necessary an entirely different treat- 
ment of the whole story. 1 Kissner's statement with regard to 
the denouement of the story is evidently correct ; but not for 
the reasons he gives. As a matter of fact, there would have 
been no more reason for the hero's claiming Criseyde as a 
maiden for his bride than Criseyde as a widow ; certainly no 
objection attached to marrying a widow simply because she was 
a widow. Kissner forgets that Troilus was in exactly the same 
position as Hamlet : 

He may not, as unvalued persons do, 
Carve for himself. 

As the son of the King of Troy, Troilus could not claim whom 
he wished as bride, regardless of the wishes of others and of 
the interest of the state. In Boccaccio's story difference of rank 
is definitely mentioned as an obstacle to marriage. 2 In Chaucer's 

1 Kissner, pp. 45-46. 

2 See Filostrato, ii, 76 ; iv, 69. Griseida in thinking the matter over, which 
Pandaro has proposed, says to herself : 

chi al presente t' ama, 
E di troppo piu alta condizione 
Che tu non se'. 

Troilo in giving an excuse for not asking Priam for Griseida, says : 

Nfc spero ancora ch' el dovesse darla, 
Si per non romper le cose promesse, 
E perchfc la direbbe diseguale 
A me, al qual' vuol dar donna reale. 


poem, while Criseyde is evidently a lady of high station, and 
numbers among her friends members of the royal family, yet she 
is not of the blood royal. She herself says of Troilus : 

Eek wel wot I my kinges sone is he ; 

And sith he hath to see me swich delyt, 

If I wolde utterly his sighte flee, 

Paraunter he mighte have me in dispyt, 

Thurgh which I mighte stonde in worse plyt (ii, 102). 

These lines show that the heroine recognized the superior rank 
of her lover. The last line, too, recalls the " plyt " that she was 
really in. When Calchas forsook the Trojan party and went 
over to the Greeks, the Trojan populace, Chaucer tells us, were 
so enraged that they immediately took steps to be avenged on his 
family, threatening to burn them all. Criseyde was saved from 
a terrible fate by appealing to the generosity of Hector. The 
feeling which the people had against her is shown again in their 
actions at the Parliament which decreed her exchange for Ante- 
nor. Even the influence of Hector was not sufficient to withstand 
their demand for the proposed exchange. Clearly, had Troilus, 
or even Priam himself, been willing for the marriage of Troilus 
and Criseyde to take place, the turbulent populace of Troy and 
their hatred of everything and everybody connected with Calchas 
would have had to be reckoned with. Thus we see that differ- 
ence of rank as well as questions of state would have been real 
barriers to the marriage. If Chaucer had been asked why he 
did not have the two marry, these reasons would have been 
natural ones to put forward. It is most likely, however, that the 
question was not considered by him at all. The poet found the 
plot of the story already made for him, and he chose to use it 
as it was. To bring about a marriage between the hero and 
heroine would have been to destroy the whole denouement. He 
had his choice of telling the story without the marriage feature, 
or of making it a story different from the one he wished to tell, 


namely, one relating the faithlessness of Criseyde. Once more 
we must remember that Chaucer is narrating a tale of courtly 
love, with which marriage was incompatible. This was full and 
sufficient reason, to say nothing of those already mentioned, for 
adhering to his source. 

The fact is, Troilus was face to face with a problem which 
was insoluble, if the conditions of the story are to be kept intact. 
These conditions render it necessary, first, that he, as a lover, 
make his will subservient to that of his lady ; and, second, that 
he shield her name at whatever cost. To violate either require- 
ment is to come into conflict with his own sense of honor and 
self-respect. In refusing to free himself from his predicament 
at the expense of his honor, he shows himself a man of no small 
courage. The question as to whether the conditions which hedge 
the lover about are sensible or not, is irrelevant. We of this 
time may not think so ; what Chaucer thought, does not affect 
the case. He was working within the limitations of the conven- 
tional ideas of what a lover should be. His plot involved those 
ideas, and in following them out he brought his hero face to 
face with a difficulty which he could not surmount without 
compromise of honor. 

Chaucer calls his poem a tragedy. 1 The force which brings 
about the tragical end of the story is Fate, and this element is 
brought into prominent relief throughout the poem. The author 
makes it very plain that it is Fate that forces the two lovers apart. 
But in effecting her purpose in this manner she works through 
the strength of the hero, and only because of his strength of 
character could she work as she did. Had Troilus followed 
Pandarus's suggestion and abducted Criseyde, Fate might still 

1 Bk. v, 1. 256. For Chaucer's idea of what made a tragedy, see the first stanza 
of the Monk's Tale. See also Chaucer's gloss in Boethius, Bk. ii, Pr. 2: 
"Tragedie is to seyn, a ditee of a prosperitee for a tyme, that endeth in 
wrechednesse." Cf. ten Brink, Studien, Munster, 1870, p. 77. 


have operated in separating the two, but the end would have 
had to be achieved in some way different from that described 
by Chaucer in the poem as we have it. 

It seems clear, then, that Chaucer conceived the character of 
Troilus, not as a vacillating, visionary, unpractical weakling ; but 
as a man of strength, with the courage of his convictions, whether 
such convictions led him to oppose love or, having been over- 
come by love, to be loyal till death. In addition to the quality 
of physical courage, which every lover was expected to have, he 
was endowed with sterling qualities of spirit. These it was which 
the poet makes attract Criseyde. She says : 

For trusteth wel, that your estat royal 

Ne veyn delyt, nor only worthinesse 

Of yow in werre, or torney marcial, 

Ne pompe, array, nobley, or eek richesse, 

Ne made me to rewe on your distresse ; 

But moral vertu, grounded upon trouthe, 

That was the cause I first hadde on yow routhe ! 

Eek gentil herte and manhod that ye hadde, 

And that ye hadde, as me thoughte, in despyt 

Every thing that souned into badde, 

As rudenesse and poeplish appetyt ; 

And that your reson brydled your delyt, 

This made, aboven every creature 

That I was your, and shal, whyl I may dure (iv, 239-240). 

But how shall we explain some of the actions of Troilus which 
seem strange to us, in a man of the strength of character he 
appears to be ? To say nothing of his swooning at the bedside 
of his beloved, what shall we say of the endless sighing and 
weeping of the lover, and all the conduct which has led critics 
to call him effeminate and unmanly ? Most of this can be ex- 
plained by the conventions of love literature. Mediaeval lovers, 
if we are to believe the literature, were an extraordinarily lachry- 
mose lot. Lament was the principal article of their conduct, at 


least up to the point when they gained the favor of their ladies, 
and swoons were certain to occur under any unusual stress of 
emotion. If these features are more noticeable in Troilus than 
in other lovers, the explanation from our point of view may be, 
perhaps, that his love opened up in him a vein of sentimentalism 
which he himself did not before know that he possessed. The 
question then is : Is sentimentality necessarily a sign of effem- 
inacy ? and is it inconsistent with courage and strength of char- 
acter ? That it was consistent with physical courage in the case of 
Troilus is perfectly clear; and it seems, too, from what has already 
been shown, that it was not inconsistent with strength of spirit. 
The critics have expressed various opinions of the character 
of Criseyde. Ten Brink's, often quoted, is as follows : " The 
English Criseyde is more innocent, less experienced, less sensual, 
more modest than her Italian prototype. What a multitude of 
agencies were needed to inflame her love for Troilus ; what a 
concatenation of circumstances, what a display of trickery and 
intrigue, to bring her at last to his arms ! We see the threads of 
the web in which she is entangled drawing ever closer around 
her ; her fall appears to us excusable, indeed unavoidable ; and 
if afterwards, after the separation, she does not resist the temp- 
tation of Diomede, how is she accountable, if her mind is less 
true and deep than that of Troilus? how is she accountable, 
when that first fall robbed her of her moral stay ? . . . She only 
gives her heart to Diomede when touched with sympathy for 
the wounds he had received from Troilus ; and her infidelity is 
immediately followed by repentance." 1 Ten Brink here seems to 
picture the heroine as an innocent girl, who has been trapped 
into committing a grievous fault in yielding to Troilus ; who was 
involved in a chain of circumstances which was too powerful for 
her feminine weakness and inexperience to break. As such, she 
is to be pitied and her offence is to be condoned. 

1 Ten Brink, Hist. Eng. Lit., Vol. II, pt. i, p. 92. 


Much the same attitude appears in the expression of Furnivall, 
in which he speaks of Shakspere's conception of the character : 
" To have the beautiful Cressida hesitating, palpitating like the 
nightingale before her sin, driven by force of hard circumstances 
which she could not control, into unfaithfulness to her love ; 
to have this Cressida whom Chaucer spared for very ruth, set 
before us as a mere shameless wanton, making eyes at all the 
men she sees, and showing her looseness in the movement of 
every limb, is a terrible blow." 1 

In the statement of Courthope, 2 another idea is made promi- 
nent. He says : " It is not till the fourth (sic) book that the 
deterioration (italics are mine) of Cressida's nature reveals itself 
incidentally in the facility with which she listens without dis- 
pleasure though without response to the artful love making of 
Diomede." Mr. Courthope seems to consider that Criseyde after 
her departure from Troy is a different Criseyde from the one 
figuring in the story up to this exchange of prisoners. 

In opposition to these estimates of the heroine the 
unfortunate innocent of ten Brink, and the double Criseyde of 
Courthope and others Professor Cook comes forward with a 
characterization 3 in which he considers the moral laxness of 
the various Briseidas, Criseides, or Griseidas from Homer to 
Boccaccio, as well as the despicable roles played by the various 
prototypes of Pandarus and Calchas. After marshalling all the 
evidence possible to show that the mistress of Boccaccio was 
a shameless, sensual, self-indulgent, and heartless woman, he 
holds that "Criseyde virtually represents Boccaccio's mistress." 4 

1 Leopold Shakspere, London, 1880, p. Ixxx. 

2 History of English Poetry, i, 264. 

8 Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., 1907, pp. 531 ff. 

4 Cook, p. 547. The general inference to be drawn from all this seems to 
be, that the society in which Criseyde had been moving for the preceding cen- 
turies was a bad lot, and that therefore little could be expected of her when 
she got into Chaucer's hands ! 


Substantially the same view of the heroine is taken by Mr. Root, 
in the characterization which he has elaborated from sugges- 
tions by Professor Cook. 1 The total impression given by the 
two characterizations is that Criseyde is a designing, calculat- 
ing, sensual, " lightly-loving" adventuress, who plays " the role 
of betrayed innocence with just sufficient reluctance before 
the act, and reproach after it is accomplished, to carry out the 
illusion." 2 

None of these views of the heroine, I believe, shows us 
Criseyde as Chaucer conceived her. She is not, I think, inno- 
cent ; at least in the sense that ten Brink seems to indicate. 
Certainly she is not, in Chaucer, calculating and designing, even 
if she is cool-headed. If we agree that she is amorous, it is 
not necessary to conclude that she is the worse for this element 
in her make-up. Finally the Criseyde who falls in love with 
Diomede is not, I believe, different in her essential character 
from the Criseyde who, until she met Diomede, was true to 
Troilus. It will be worth while to see how these beliefs are 
borne out by the poem itself. 

In the first part of this study of the Troilus I have tried to 
show, with some detail, that the story is told in terms of the 
courtly love ideas, as embodied in the poetry of the troubadours 
and in the work of Andreas Capellanus. Of this proposition 
there can be no doubt ; as corollaries to it, there follow two 
facts, a consideration of which underlies any correct estimate 
of the heroine of the poem. 

The first of these has been already mentioned in the state- 
ment that Criseyde knew to what end her amour with Troilus 
tended. This comes out clearly in the poem. In that first inter- 
view of Pandarus with Criseyde, he argues that the worst that 
could come of her showing some favor to Troilus would be that 

1 See Cook, footnote to p. 531, and Root, footnote to p. 115. 

2 Root, p. 114. 


people would wonder at Troilus's going and coming. But, he 
continues, every one, unless he were a fool, would deem this 
" love of friendship " (ii, 53) ; for, he says, 

Swich love of freendes regneth al this toun (ii, 55). 

He follows this up by reminding her that she is growing older, 
and every hour wastes a part of her beauty. Criseyde under- 
stands the drift of his argument, as is clear from her answer, in 
which, weeping, she complains that he, whom she considered 
her best friend, advised her to a love that it was his duty to 
forbid (ii, 59). When Pandarus has effectually frightened her 
into thinking that not only Troilus's, but his own life depends 
on her relenting, she begins to look things in the face. She 
considers the possibility of saving both her uncle's life and her 
own good name (ii, 67-68) ; and she promises Pandarus that 
she will try to please Troilus, as far as is consistent with keep- 
ing her reputation unspotted (ii, 69). After Pandarus has gone, 
and she is arguing with herself the advisability of loving Troilus, 
she reckons in his favor the fact that he is no " boaster" : 

To wys is he to do so gret a vyce (ii, 104). 

" But," she adds significantly, " he will never get a chance to 
boast of my favors." The heroine is, however, not at all sure of 
her ground here ; she is wavering between loving and not lov- 
ing ; she remembers how he is fit to have the love of the 
very best woman in Troy, " so she hir honour save." The neces- 
sity for guarding the reputation is clearly brought out. This is 
to be a love which demands very especial precautions in this 
respect. The first firm ground that she gets on in this self- 
examination seems to be the conclusion : 

And though that I myn herte sette at reste 
Upon this knight, that is the worthieste, 
And kepe alwey myn honour and my name, 
By alle right, it may do me no shame (ii, 109). 


This is practically the same conclusion that Pandarus had tried 
to force on her mind in the interview ; he held that as long as 
they could blind people and make them think that this was a 
case of " love of friendship " there could be no harm. 

Taken in connection with Criseyde's anxiety to keep her fair 
name, the numerous references to secrecy have more than 
conventional significance. After the meeting at the house of 
Deiphebus, in which Criseyde promises Troilus her love, Pan- 
darus is much concerned about its being kept strictly secret. 

But gode brother, do now as thee oughte, 

For goddes love, and keep hir out of blame, 

Sin thou art wys, and save alivey hir name (iii, 38), 

for her name was as yet " halwed" among people, and no man 
could say that she had ever done amiss (iii, 39). And Pandarus 
goes on to preach a little sermon on the evils of boasting of 
favors received from women. Troilus, in his exaltation of spirit, 
not only promises to keep everything secret, but bids Pandarus 
choose for his amie whichever of his (Troilus's) sisters pleases 
him best. And he kept his promise faithfully, the poet assures 
us. No one could have told by word or deed of his, what were 
his intentions in this matter. In short, he was so discreet in 
everything and so secret that Criseyde laid aside her fears, and 

felte he was to hir a wal 
Of steel, and sheld from every displesaunce (iii, 69). 

After the first night of the lovers together, Criseyde urges 
Troilus to haste away, 

Or elles I am lost for evermo ! (iii, 204) 

Pandarus's admonition, too, when Troilus tells him of his joys, 
is, in effect : " JCeep it quiet ; do and say nothing rash " ; and 
Troilus's answer shows that he realizes that Criseyde's fair 
name is at stake (iii, 232-234). When the parliament, at which 
Troilus is present, decides to exchange Criseyde for Antenor, 


the lover can say nothing, lest men see his affection. He 
decides to wait, casting in his mind, 

how to save hir honour (iv, 23). 

Later, he rejects Pandarus's advice to abduct Criseyde, because 
It moste been disclaundre to hir name (iv, 81). 

When Criseyde unfolds her plan of going to the Greek camp 
and returning in ten days, she comforts Troilus by telling him : 

I see that ofte, ther-as we ben now, 

That for the beste, our conseil for to hyde, 

Ye speke not with me, nor I with yow 

In fourtenight ; ne see yow go ne ryde (iv, 190). 

When Troilus, in this same interview, urges her to flee with him, 

she objects : 

And also thenketh on myn honestee 

That floureth yet, how foule I sholde it shende, 

And with what filthe it spotted sholde be, 

If in this forme I sholde with yow wende (iv, 226). 

This insistence on secrecy and the fear of slanderous tongues, 
this anxiety to keep her name unspotted, not only on the part of 
Pandarus and Troilus, but on that of Criseyde herself, can mean 
but one thing. All seems to point to the fact that the heroine 
knew from the outset that this amour meant ultimately a full 
and complete yielding to the passion of Troilus. 

The second fact following from the statement that the Troilus 
is told in terms of the courtly love is that Criseyde 's crime does 
not consist in her yielding to Troilus, but in her unfaithfulness 
to him. We have seen that at heart the courtly system of love 
was sensual ; that its basic principle was the ennobling power of 
a love which from the Christian point of view is illicit. All the 
characters in the poem are believers in the religion of Love ; 
and Criseyde, as well as the rest, is not a Christian, even though 
she says it would be more becoming for her as a widow to be 


reading " holy seintes lives " than to be dancing a May dance 
(ii, 17). Clearly, she is not to be blamed for what is a part of 
the system. On the other hand, constancy was a cardinal prin- 
ciple of courtly love, and in giving her love to Diomede she was 
sinning' against the religion of which she was an adherent. 

One other important point in addition to those named is to 
be noted in connection with the heroine ; this is the fact that 
Chaucer has carefully provided that she be a widow. In Benoit 
of Ste. Maure, she is unmarried ; in Boccaccio's story, on the 
other hand, she is a widow, the Italian poet making the change, 
probably, to suit more nearly the circumstances of his own love 
affair. 1 Chaucer, in taking up the story, wisely retained this 
feature as he found it in Boccaccio ; for the bearing of Criseyde's 
widowhood on her conduct in the Troilus is as clear as it is 
important. So far as Chaucer's story, or Boccaccio's either, is 
concerned, we have no reason to think that the heroine, up to 
the time of meeting Troilus, had been otherwise than discreet 
and circumspect in the highest degree. On the contrary, the 
impression is given strongly that she had been a true and faith- 
ful wife to her husband now dead. But as a wife she had lost 
the bloom of her virgin innocence ; and in a perfectly legitimate 
way she knew things that as an unmarried woman she would 
not be expected to know, and, indeed, would have no business 
knowing. Clearly then Criseyde is not innocent in the sense 
that ten Brink's statement seems to indicate, if I have the 
correct impression of the meaning of his remarks. 

If now we start with a heroine of whom the things just indi- 
cated are true : namely, that she is not innocent, and that she 
is fully conscious to what length she will be called to go, in case 
she decides to love Troilus ; if we start with such a heroine, 

1 See Cook, p. 537 ; quoting from Delia Torre, he shows that Maria of the 
Fiammetta, whom the critics take to be figured in Griseida, was already 


remembering at the same time that, in case she does yield to 
Troilus, she is committing no fault from the point of view of 
the courtly system of love, in what light does her conduct in the 
story place her character ? In the first place, may we say she is 
designing or calculating ? 1 Let us see how her mind works in 
her interview with Pandarus, in which he has told her that 
Troilus loves her, adding at the same time that if the knight 
dies for her love, she will be responsible, not only for Troilus's 
death but for her uncle's. The reader cannot fail to notice with 
what skill Pandarus has managed his side of this conversation ; 
how he has whetted her curiosity, how he has insinuated that 
her beauty is the cause of a passion in Troilus which may lead 
him to do violence to himself, and lastly how he has deftly 
hinted, and only hinted, at what he should like her to do for 
Troilus, and for him as the friend of Troilus and at the same 
time her uncle. Pandarus is sly ; and who should realize this 
better than Criseyde, his own niece, who must have known him 
intimately for a long time ? She grasps the situation, though 
vaguely, in a minute, and realizes that here is a design which 
concerns her closely. She thinks : 

I shal fele what he meneth, y-wis. 

What could be more natural for a cool-headed person like Cri- 
seyde to think ? For the heroine realizes that she must have her- 
self well in hand in dealing with an adversary like her uncle ; 
and she is quite able to take care of herself. And so she asks : 

Now eem . . . what wolde ye devyse, 
What is your reed, I sholde doon of this ? 

1 See Cook, p. 547 : " It is evident that Criseyde knew how to woo, under 
the guise of being wooed." Also Root : " There is an air of cool deliberation 
about this which strikes one as quite incongruous " (p. 108). " Once more 
one discovers that curious tone of calculation" (p. 109). "Attention must 
be called again to the tone of calm calculation, not to say casuistry which 
characterizes it" (p. 109), all referring to speeches by Criseyde. 


This gives Pandarus the opportunity he wants ; and he presses 
Troilus's claims, and reminds her that age is wasting every hour 
a part of her beauty. But he goes too far. She tearfully re- 
proaches him for persuading her to love, when his duty should 
lead him to forbid it. He falls back on a more telling argument, 
and works upon her pity through her sense of fear, holding 
before her constantly the probability of Troilus's death and of 
his own. The poet here assures us that Criseyde was naturally 

easily frightened : 

She was the ferfulleste wight 
That mighte be. 

Are we to believe this ? Most certainly so, I think. Effectually 
frightened, she detains Pandarus, who had hastily started away, 
after making his threats of violence to himself. She now feels 
sorry for him and she begins to look at affairs squarely, 

And thoughte thus, ' unhappes fallen thikke 
Alday for love, and in swich maner cas, 
As men ben cruel in hem-self and wikke ; 
And if this man slee here him-self , alias ! 
In my presence, it wol be no solas, 
What men wolde of hit deme I can nat seye.' 

We are apt to laugh at the probability of self-violence as the 
result of love. And yet we know at this day, just as Criseyde 
thought, that " unhappes fallen thikke alday for love/' and 
" unhappes " of the very kind Criseyde feared. She regains her 
coolness quickly, thinking, 

It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye. 

Is there a tone of calculation about this line ? I cannot see it. 
Criseyde encounters a difficulty, and she faces it fairly and 
squarely. She is prudent and careful of her actions, and still 
cool-headed. Shall we, for this reason, call her " calculating " ? 
The truth is, she is here showing what comes out more 


clearly later in the poem one of her most noticeable traits, the 
ability and willingness to look at facts in the face. And so she 
succeeds in satisfying her crafty uncle, without at the same time 
committing herself to any course of action which will lead her 
into difficulty in the future. This done, she shows the womanly 
side of her nature in her desire to hear more of the new lover. 
After Pandarus's departure, Criseyde considers the new turn 
that her affairs have taken. It is just now that Troilus comes 
riding by, and she sees him in his glory as a knightly hero. 
She remembers that this is the man who, her uncle swears, will 
die if she does not show him her pity. Naturally enough, she 
begins to consider the matter in all its phases. The lure of this 
new love which is just awaking in her is strong, but there are 
arguments against it. 

And, lord ! so she gan in hir thought argue 
In this matere of which I have yow told, 
And what to doon best were, and what eschue, 
That plyted she ful ofte in many fold. 
Now was hir herte warm, now was it cold, 
And what she thoughte somwhat shal I wryte, 
As to myn auctor listeth for to endyte. 

Then follows that remarkable soliloquy of the heroine. The 
arguments in favor of her loving him are strong : i. The " per- 
son " and " gentilesse " make him a fit and attractive lover. 

2. He is her king's son ; and since his delight is in seeing her, 
it would be very unwise, considering her " estat," to scorn him. 

3. It is almost certain to her that Troilus " means well." 4. He 
is discreet; he is no boaster. Of these four reasons, the first 
appeals to the distinctly feminine element in her. The other 
three are what might be called more practical considerations ; 
they concern more than her personal affections. Her position 
in the city was already not enviable, on account of the treason 
of her father ; it was the part of wisdom not to go too fast in 


absolutely ignoring the wish of the son of the king, whom her 
father had betrayed. As for the other considerations, they are 
important for any sensible young woman to have in mind, before 
going too far. The mediaeval love literature makes at least one 
thing clear : that false lovers were as numerous as they are 
to-day, and that the lady who was deceived by one of these had 
every reason to cry, "Alas ! had I known ! " If Criseyde had 
been an ultra-romantic young maiden, the thought of being loved 
by a king's son might easily have set her heart in a flutter, and 
have made her forget or neglect very practical considerations. 
But she was not a maiden ; she had. already been wooed and won. 
Shall we call her " calculating " because she weighs every side 
of this important question ? Why not rather call her wise ? 

But there are other arguments in favor of the new love. 
Troilus is " out and out " the worthiest man in Troy, save 
Hector ; and he is fit to have for his love the very best lady, 
in every respect, in all the " noble town " ; 

And yet his lyf al lyth now in my cure. 

And then follows that remarkable example of her facing the 
facts in the case, which is so noticeable in the heroine. She 
realizes that she is the very fairest and " goodliest " woman in 
all the town of Troy, and so everybody says. What wonder is 
it that Troilus loves her ? She is her own woman, young and 
free. She is not a nun. Why shall she not set her heart at 
rest on this worthy Troilus, provided she can keep her name 
unspotted ? We must answer for Criseyde that there is no rea- 
son for her not granting him her love, and every reason for her 
doing so, if we decide the question from the only fair point of 
view, that of the courtly love ideas. One line in this soliloquy 
should not be lost sight of. The poet is careful to have her say, 
when she is considering her physical charms, 

Al wolde I that noon wiste of this thought. 


This absolves her from the charge of immodesty. There cer- 
tainly is nothing immodest in a woman's recognizing her own 
beauty, as long as she does not publish the fact that she recog- 
nizes it. Chaucer has here shown us the innermost workings of 
the mind of his heroine, as, indeed, he has with all the impor- 
tant characters of his drama. There is danger of our forming 
unfavorable opinions of these characters from our very intimacy 
with their private thoughts thoughts which were perfectly 
natural and legitimate for them to have, but the publishing of 
which would be inexcusable. Critics would do well to bear this 
in mind, for instance, in speaking of Troilus as effeminate and 
unpractical. Certainly the people of Troy did not consider him 
in any such light, as he gave them no reason to do so. And so 
in this soliloquy, if we should lose sight of this principle, it 
would be possible for us to start with Criseyde's frank recogni- 
tion that she is of an amorous disposition, and then, passing 
from this to her conclusion that there is no reason why she 
should not grant her love to Troilus, to make her out not only 
immodest but even brazen. Clearly, this would be absolutely the 
wrong impression of her, if we may judge her by her conduct 
in relation with Pandarus and Troilus. After coming to her 
conclusion, she still goes on to consider the arguments for 
and against it. There is the question of giving up her liberty, 
and of the " stormy lyf " that lovers lead, of the disadvantage 
a woman is at in a love affair, of the jangling of "wikked 
tongues," of the faithlessness of men in general. But after all, 
in accord with her strong practical bent, she decides to take 
chances in the matter, concluding that 

... he which that no-thing undertaketh, 
No-thing ne acheveth, be him looth or dere. 

This soliloquy of Criseyde may rightly be considered as the poet's 
revelation to the reader of the character of his heroine. If we 


can form an estimate of her from this scene, it will then be 
possible to see whether the character remains constant through- 
out the poem. 

Such an estimate is possible ; for certain things come out 
clearly in the first real presentation of the heroine. In the first 
place, she is amorous. We have her own words for this : 

What shal I doon ? to what fyn live I thus ? 
Shal I nat loven, in cas if that me leste ? 
What, par dieux ! I am nought religious ! 

by which, of course, she means she is not the kind of woman to 
be a nun. We also have Pandarus's testimony as to this char- 
acteristic of his niece : 

And for to speke of hir in special, 
Hir beautee to bithinken and hir youthe, 
// sit hir nought to be celestial 
As yet. 

There is the element in her nature that makes her fond of the 
opposite sex. It is well to observe that there is nothing improper 
in this. We may accept Pandarus's observation as being true, 
broadly speaking : 

Was never man ne woman yet bigete 
That was unapt to suffren loves hete 
Celestial, or elles love of kinde. 

If some women are devoid of tendencies toward " love of kinde," 
there is nothing unnatural or in any way improper in such ten- 
dencies in other women. We must not assume that an amorous 
disposition in Criseyde means a sensual nature. 

Another thing that comes out clearly in Criseyde' s soliloquy 
is that she is not sentimental. The practical manner in which 
she considers and weighs every side of the important question 
of granting her love indicates this. Here was a love offered to 
her, which might well sweep any young woman, too romantically 


inclined, off her feet. But not Criseyde. She looks at things as 
they are, and as they may turn out to be. The poet has made 
her, in this respect, a foil to the sentimental Troilus. 

Another characteristic of the heroine appears, not in the 
soliloquy, but in the interview with Pandarus : she is perfectly 
self-possessed and cool-headed under fire, so to speak. She has 
a quick wit, and when in her arguments with Pandarus she 

It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye, 

she puts her wits to work against her crafty opponent. 

It is important to note some elements not found in her char- 
acter. It has appeared, I trust, in the foregoing discussion, that 
Criseyde was not designing and calculating ; at least these words, 
with their present connotations, are not the correct ones to apply 
to her. Furthermore, there is nothing in all the first part of 
the poem to leave the impression that she is bold or immodest ; 
Chaucer's description of her while at the temple, as standing 

With ful assured loking and manere, 

indicates no more than a modest, quiet self-control on her part, 
and agrees well with what we see of her later in the poem. 

We have in Criseyde, then, a young widow of strongly amorous 
nature, but circumspect and modest ; of a quick and ready wit 
and a cool head ; without sentimentality, but with a marked 
ability to face facts which concern her and her welfare closely. 
This young woman is made the heroine of a poem, told in accord 
with the ideas of courtly love, a love which in its essence is 
sensual, and which ultimately, as the heroine well knows, de- 
mands a complete yielding to the passion of the hero. How 
does this young woman conduct herself in the later parts of 
the poem ? 

The next important appearance of Criseyde, after her solilo- 
quy, is in the interview with Troilus at the house of Deiphebus. 


Troilus is pretending to be sick, and at the approach of Criseyde 
he makes a movement to arise and " do [her] honor in some 
wyse." She gently stops him and reveals her purpose in coming 
to see him : first to thank him for his " lordshipe " in the past, 
and to beg a continuance of it. To Troilus, who was feeling the 
propriety of his beseeching her for favor, rather than of being 
besought by her, the situation was embarrassing, and he was 
unable to keep from showing his feelings in his blushes and 

confusion. Criseyde al this aspyede wel ynough, 

For she was wys. 

It is possible to give these last four words in reading, a meaning 
that would be entirely wrong in the connection ; a knowing wink, 
a shrug, a peculiar inflection of the voice would easily enough 
convey the impression that Criseyde is here a designing and 
crafty adventuress. Taken as the poet evidently means them, the 
words mean no more than a statement of what is indeed true of 
most women in their love affairs. How many women, charming 
and innocent ones too, are unaware of the feelings of their lovers, 
even before such feelings have been declared? Criseyde was 
" wys " in this manner ; and nothing more need be implied in 
the words. True to her feminine nature, however, she coyly 
leads Troilus on to declare his passion : 

... I wolde him preye 
To telle me the fyn of his entente ; 
Yet wiste I never wel what that he mente. 

Then follow the lover's protestations of his desire to serve her 
patiently and humbly, in the genuine courtly fashion. The same 
Criseyde appears that we have seen before. She is cool and 

With that she gan hir eyen on him caste 
Ful easily, and ful debonairly, 
Avysing hir, and hyed not to faste 
With never a word. 


Quietly she tells him that she accepts him as a lover on the terms 
that he has just devised. And it must be noticed that the terms 
proposed were the most favorable ones possible to Criseyde. She 
expressly stipulates that 

A kinges sone al-though ye be, y-wis, 

Ye shul na-more have soverainetee 

Of me in love, than right in that cas is. 

She is acting within her rights here ; for as her lover, Troilus 
could have no "soverainetee." Her discretion is manifest, in 
reminding him of the fact. She never forgets that in dealing 
with the sly Pandarus, and this young king's son hot with love 

It nedeth me ful sleyly for to pleye. 

Yet it must also be noted that the manner in which she promises 
her favor to Troilus is exquisitely charming and tender : 

And shortly, dere herte and al my knight, 
Beth glad, and draweth yow to lustinesse, 
And I shal trewely, with al my might, 
Your bittre tornen al into swetnesse, 
If I be she that may yow do gladnesse, 
For every wo ye shal recover a blisse ; 
And him in armes took, and gan him kisse. 

At this point in the story we are to understand that Criseyde 
is fully decided in her mind to enter into this love affair with 
Troilus. True to the courtly ideas, the poet has kept her from 
granting her love, or even encouragement, too easily. He is very 
particular about defending her against any possible charge of 

lightness : , 

For I sey nought that she so sodeynly 

Yaf him hir love, but that she gan enclyne 
To lyke him first, and I have told yow why ; 
And after that, his manhod and his pyne 
Made love withinne hir to myne, 
For which, by proces and by good servyse, 
He gat hir love, and in no sodein wyse. 


And the poet has skilfully arranged it, so that we have seen the 
workings of her mind in considering all the arguments for and 
against this new love. It has become plain, I think, that she 
has been no easy wanton, simply waiting for the opportunity to 
give herself fully to Troilus. On the other hand, it is equally 
important to note that she has not been a prude. She has kept 
in mind her own interests in the matter and, when she decided 
to enter fully into this love, has done so with her eyes open. 
With his heroine in this state of mind, the poet is now ready 
for the climax of his story. This occurs in the meeting of the 
two lovers at the house of Pandarus. 

The tender womanliness of Criseyde in this scene, in her 
endeavors first to satisfy the misgivings of Pandarus, and after- 
ward to soothe Troilus, who, she is made to believe, is mad with 
jealousy ; the pathos of her being accused of a fault of which 
she is entirely innocent ; the delicacy of her nature which is re- 
vealed in her meeting the accusation, all these things I pass 
over, important as they are in their bearing on the character of 
Criseyde. He who, in reading this scene, does not feel them, 
reads superficially, or with very little sympathy. Leaving these 
features, I wish only to look at one part of the interview in its 
relation to that side of Criseyde's character which has been under 
consideration. When Pandarus is arranging this meeting, and 
invites Criseyde to his house, the heroine's suspicions are aroused 
enough to make her inquire whether or not Troilus will be there. 
In his humorous, non-committal manner Chaucer declares: 

Nought list myn auctor fully to declare 
What that she thoughte whan he seyde so, 
That Troilus was out of town y-fare, 
As if he seyde ther-of sooth or no. 

But, on the whole, the poet subtly makes us feel that Pandarus's 
reassurances are sufficient to allay the heroine's suspicions, and 
that she went to his house in innocence. Yet, after the scenes 


in which Troilus's feigned jealousy has been appeased, and he 
has been permitted to remain with her, we have the show of 
amorous violence on the hero's part, and his demand that she 
yield. To which she replies : 

Ne hadde I er now, my swete herte dere, 
Ben yolde, y-wis, I were now not here ! 

What shall we say to these words of Criseyde ? There is only 
one thing that can be said, that they are a delicate way of 
stating the truth in the matter. If Criseyde had not already 
yielded in her mind, she certainly would not have been at the 
house of Pandarus. For, knowing, as she did, what was involved 
in her deciding to love Troilus par amours, the moment she 
decided to take him for " my knight, my pees, my suffisaunce," 
she had yielded then in her own mind. Let us, as Criseyde did, 
"set a cas." Suppose Criseyde had promised to marry Troilus in 
a legitimate fashion ; would she not have foreseen the events of 
her wedding night ? With equal clearness, in becoming the amie 
of Troilus, she saw that at some time there must follow the same 
events. The difference in the two cases lies in the uncertainty as to 
the time of the final adjustment of affairs. This very uncertainty 
as to events which Criseyde knew must come about some time 
or other, enables the poet to give the air of surprise which is 
about the story as he tells it ; for there is no doubt that the 
heroine is surprised in this scene, and Chaucer thus saves her 
from easy yielding. But with all this, there can be no doubt 
that she went to Pandarus' s house feeling that possibly she might 
meet Troilus there, and matters would arrange themselves as 
they did. Before we condemn her for thus walking " with a 
hidden smile into the trap set by Pandarus with such needless 
craft," 1 we must remember once more that in making herself 
a party to the transactions of this night she is doing nothing 

1 Root, p. 114. 


wrong according to the courtly ideas. Her honor has received 
no stain. Only by judging her and her actions by standards 
which have no place in this story, can we up to this point make 
her out a bad woman. She is amorous, and the poet intended 
to represent her so ; not cold and hard-hearted, but fond of men 
and at the same time conscious of the power of her beauty and 
wit over them. She is not light and easy in yielding herself, but 
ready to enjoy the extreme joys of love, when it is proper under 
the system for her to do so ; yet, up to this point of the story, 
she is true and faithful to one lover. To her amorous propen- 
sities she adds both the ability and the desire to look after her 
own welfare. She has also all the tenderness and the delicacy 
of womanly feeling which makes woman charming in the eyes 
of men. This is the Criseyde that Chaucer leaves with us at 
the close of the third book of the Troilus. Do we see the same. 
Criseyde, or another, in the last two books ? Does her character 
undergo deterioration after her departure from Troy ? 

We may note that from the time that the heroine first learns 
of the decision of the Parliament to exchange her for Antenor 
to the day of her departure there is no change in her character. 
Pandarus, who from the beginning has had the interests of the 
hero at heart, now appeals to Criseyde to use her womanly re- 
sourcefulness to relieve her lover of his bitter sorrow. This 
appeal is not in vain. Nowhere in the poem does the practical 
side of Criseyde's nature, and at the same time her tenderness, 
appear better than here, where she strives, though suffering 
quite as acutely as the herd, to forget her own sorrow out of 
consideration for her lover's feelings, and brings to bear all her 
womanly wit on the situation. She conveys to Troilus her 
reasons for thinking it best to accede to the wishes of the Parlia- 
ment, and also her plan of action after reaching the Grecian 
camp. She feels confident that she can manage her father and 
handle the situation so that she shall be able to return to Troy 


within the ten-day limit. It is perfectly clear that in all this 
Criseyde is honest ; she is yet true to her lover ; and her sorrow 
at leaving is quite as poignant as that of the hero who remains 
behind. The poet is careful that at this point we do not get 
the wrong impression of her, and he assures us : 

And treweliche, as writen wel I finde, 
That al this thing was seyd of good entente ; 
And that hir herte trewe was and kinde 
Towardes him, and spak right as she mente, 
And that she starf for wo neigh, whan she wente, 
And was in purpos ever to be trewe ; 
Thus writen they that of hir werkes knewe. 

There is every probability that Criseyde would have succeeded 
in managing things according to her plans, but for the fact that 
there now entered into the case circumstances which were too 
strong for her to cope with. She had stated to Troilus before 
leaving, her belief and hope that the war would soon end 
favorably to the Trojans ; and, in such a case, she might easily 
return. When she gets to the Grecian camp, she finds that 
there is no foundation for this belief and hope. Her efforts to 
hoodwink her father also fail. In short, nothing turns out as 
she expected, and she is powerless to do anything but wait. In 
addition to this, Diomede, from the moment he met her on his 
way to the camp, began his wooing. But let us note that, while 
she was polite and courteous to him, she was, at least up to the 
tenth day, true to Troilus and fully determined to keep her 
promise. She realizes that she has acted imprudently in not 
taking Troilus's advice and fleeing with him ; but she decides 
that she will on the morrow, "betyde what betyde," steal back 
to the city. But the morrow brought forth new reasons for not 
going. Diomede now begins his suit in earnest ; and he shows 
himself a past master in the art of love-making. It is now that 
the very traits which we have seen in her character in the 


earlier part of the story, begin to appear again in her conduct 
and in her thinking. Already convinced that she shall not be able 
to manage her father as she had hoped, she comes to realize 
fully and unmistakably that the city of Troy is doomed, with all 
its inhabitants. Criseyde's tendency to look at things as they 
are and to determine her actions in accord with what seems her 
own best interests now exerts itself. She decides that it will be 
useless to go back to Troy and sacrifice herself in the destruc- 
tion of the city. Besides, here is the powerful argument to keep 
her, that a dashing young man is offering himself as her lover. 
We do not trust this fine young Greek ourselves. His external 
brilliancy makes us feel that he is seeking only temporary 
pleasure in striving to win the heroine from her Trojan lover. 
Yet we feel that he is just the man to take her heart by storm. 
Knowing her amorous nature as we do, we are sure that she 
cannot hold out long against the seductive charms of this new 
hero. She must have a lover ; indeed Criseyde without a lover 
is inconceivable. Love is happiness to her, and as she says, 
Felicitee clepe I my suffisaunce. 

Since this is true, certainly had circumstances permitted her to 
remain in Troy, she would have been faithful to Troilus. As 
circumstances are, she realizes that the happy life in the city is 
a closed chapter. And so, true to her nature, she decides to 
act in accord with what she considers her best interests and her 
happiness. 1 She had done so before when she had given her 
love to Troilus. She does so now when she yields to Diomede. 
In the former case, though her action involved a surrender to 

1 Retorning in hir soule ay up and doun 
The wordes of this sodein Diomede, 

' His greet estat, and peril of the toun, 
And that she was allone and hadde nede 
Of freendes help ; and thus bigan to brede 
The cause why, the sothe for to telle, 
That she tok fully purpos for to dwelle (v, 147). 


the passion of her lover, she did nothing wrong according to 
the code by which her actions were supposed to be governed. 
In the latter, she commits a definite and a heinous offense 
against that code. It is well to note that Criseyde herself 
realized the enormity of the offense. It never occurred to her, 
we may also observe, that she had done anything wrong in 
yielding to her amorous propensities in her relations with 
Troilus. Her sole sin was this particular, definite falseness in 
love, and it was this which caused her remorse. 

But trewely, the story telleth us, 
Ther made never wommen more wo 
Than she, whan that she falsed Troilus. 
She seyde, alias ! for now is dene ago 
My name of trouthe in love, for evermo / 
For I have falsed oon the gentileste. 
That ever was, and oon the worthieste / 

Her reproach was all the greater, because, at the very time she 
began to consider giving herself to Diomede, she was still in 
love with Troilus. To some men and women it is undoubtedly 
possible to love two persons at the same time. Criseyde was of 
such a nature ; for the poet makes it very clear that, up to the 
time that Diomede carried away her glove, 

. . . she . . . hadde hir herte on Troilus 
So faste, that ther may it noon arace. 

Although it is pretty clear to us when she decides to give 
Diomede her heart, we must note that the poet, with a subtle 
touch, tries to save her from the charge of lightness by assur- 
ing us that it will be useless to consult the books to see how 
long it was after forsaking Troilus that she gave herself to 
Diomede. But he adds : ' 

. . . though that he [Diomede] began to wowe hir sone, 
Er he hir wan, yet was ther more to done. 


Even after her decision to be true " algate " to Diomede, her 
feeling for Troilus is still clear : 

But Troilus, sin I no better may, 
And sin that thus departen ye and I. 
.Yet preye I god, so yeve yow right good day 
As for the gentileste, trewely, 
That ever I say, to serven feithfully, 
And best can ay his lady honour kepe : 
And with that word she brast anon to wepe. 

Circumstances have so brought it about that henceforth Troilus 
can be to her nothing more than a tender memory. * 

From the foregoing considerations it appears that in giving 
her love to Diomede, Criseyde did nothing which was not in 
accord with her nature and character as revealed in the first 
part of the poem. She shows the same tendency to decide 
matters in accord with her own interests. She grants her love 
after deliberation, as she did when she decided to love Troilus. 
If she is not so cool-headed in the latter case, it is because she 
has her own conscience to reckon with, an element which did 
not enter into the former. There is the same strong appeal to 
the amorous disposition as in the affair with Troilus. In short 
the Criseyde of the latter part is the Criseyde of the earlier ; 
only circumstances are changed. 

It is the fashion to say that the heroine's nature has deterio- 
rated in her relations with Troilus. 1 Once more, we must recall 
the fact that, according to courtly love ideas, such relations did 
not degrade. On the contrary, they were supposed to ennoble 
and uplift. The question as to the soundness of such philosophy 
is aside from our consideration of Criseyde. Since, however, 
her relations with her former lover may not be considered 
wrong, it is clearly unjustifiable to say that her character had 

1 Dr. Root's statement (p. 115) may be regarded as typical: "Her poten- 
tially sensual nature has inevitably deteriorated in her relations with Troilus." 


undergone a gradual deterioration. It was circumstances, the 
poet makes clear, which led her to commit the sin for which 
her " belle " has been " ronge " from then till now. It was a 
definite, single offense ; one that she committed deliberately, 
although she did it sorrowfully. 

The charm and sweetness of this exquisitely feminine figure 
every sympathetic reader realizes. But it is well to keep in 
mind her faults ; for there are some traits in her character 
which cannot be called admirable. She is far from being an- 
gelic. Angels, however, would make but poor lovers. In giving 
her faults the poet has made her a decidedly human creature, one 
that we can sympathize with and pity when she does not meas- 
ure up even to what might be regarded as a fair human standard. 
This is clearly Chaucer's own attitude toward her ; and it will, 
I think, be the attitude of the reader who, like Chaucer, has a 
sympathetic appreciation of human frailty. Such a reader will 
gladly say with him : * 

Ne me ne list this sely womman chyde 
Ferther than the story wol devyse. 
Hir name, alias ! is publisshed so wyde 
That for hir gilt it oughte y-now suffyse. 
And if I mighte excuse hir any wyse, 
For she so sory was for hir untrouthe, 
Y-wis I wolde excuse hir yet for routhe. 

If the foregoing conception of Criseyde's character be correct, 
we shall not have to assume that the poet has attempted to mis- 
lead us into believing that the heroine is a virtuous woman 
seduced by treachery, in order to shock and surprise us by her 
conduct with Diomede, and that in so doing he has resorted to 
an artistic duplicity. 1 It will be equally unnecessary, to charge 
the poet with having left us in Troilus and Criseyde a "broken- 
backed " story, because of his failure to explain his heroine's 

1 Root, p. 115. 


fickleness. 1 Unquestionably Chaucer fell in love with her, just 
as her first husband and Troilus and Diomede had all done 
before him. What charmed him was undoubtedly the same 
thing that charms us, her absolutely human quality ; and not 
the least important element in her power to win the affections 
of four men was precisely that passionate nature which caused 
her to fall a ready victim to the charms of Diomede. The psy- 
chology of Criseyde is all right at this point, as it is before and 
afterward. If Chaucer fails to dwell upon her fickleness, it is 
not because he realizes that he cannot explain it, that had 
already been provided for, but because, loving her as he 
does and as we do, in spite of her frailty, to dwell upon her 
unfaithfulness gave him pain. 

We turn to Pandarus. Of him Ebert 2 says, speaking of the 
unfavorable impression which he produces : " This is, however, 
somewhat softened by the fact that Chaucer makes this meta- 
morphosed figure represent his own irony of the fantastical love 
of knighthood, the most decided and important feature of his 
work." Ebert's. statement was challenged by Kissner in the 
following words: "Chaucer stand damals in seinen anschau- 
ungen noch ganz auf dem standpunkt des mittelalterlichen ritter- 
thums, welches in der romantischen minne seinen mittelpunkt 
hatte ; er meint es mit seinem liebespaar durchaus ernst und sieht 
nicht moquirend auf sie herab ; sondern behandelt ihr schicksal 
mit wahrem herzenantheil. Vieles, was fiir uns den eindruck der 
ironie macht, hat seinen grund in der noch ungeschulten nai'ven 
ausdruckweise, oder ist, wie eben die figur des Pandarus, nur ein 
unwillkiihrlicher ausfluss der schalkhaften natur des dichters." 3 

Ten Brink, on the contrary, accepts Ebert's view. He says : 
"Ebert traf den nagel auf den kopf, als er Pandarus den 

1 Oliver Elton, Modern Language Review, Jan. 1910, p. 115. 

2 Review of Sandras's "Etude sur Chaucer" Chaucer Society Publications, 
1868, p. 13. 8 Kissner, p. 53. 


* trager der ironic des dichters der phantastischen Hebe des 
ritterthums gegeniiber' nannte." l And he asks Kissner the 
following questions : 

1 . " Konnte der iibersetzer und schiiler Jehan de Meungs noch 
auf dem standpunkt des mittelalterlichen ritterthums stehen ? " 

2. " Meint nicht auch Cervantes mit seinem Don Quijote es 
durchaus ernst, ja hat er nicht sein eignes herz im character 
seines helden ganz anders offenbart, als Chaucer das seinige in 
der darstellung des Troilus ? " 

3. "1st bei wirklichen dichtern die ironie nicht immer (mehr 
oder weniger) auch ein unwillkiihrlicher ausfluss ihrer schalk- 
haften natur ? " 

The remarks of Kissner show a curious combination of truth 
and error. The statement that Chaucer at the time of writing 
the Troihis held the point of view of the mediaeval knighthood 
with regard to love, is evidently extreme. And ten Brink's 
doubt with regard to this as shown in his first question is quite 
natural and reasonable. But of the truth of Kissner's statement 
which immediately follows, there can be, I think, no doubt ; the 
lovers had the poet's sympathy throughout, and he certainly 
expected both Troilus and Criseyde to have the sympathies of 
the reader. Of course, the implication in Kissner's statement, 
that inasmuch as the poet treated his lovers sympathetically, he 
could not therefore have satirized what they stood for, is errone- 
ous, as ten Brink's second question shows. But I am inclined 
to feel that Kissner is not so far wrong in saying that much that 
appears to be irony is only the poet's humor. And while we may 
accept ten Brink's statement that all irony in true poets is more 
or less an involuntary outflow of their humorous nature, it would 
be illogical to assume, therefore, that all humor is ironical. 

If Kissner makes an unwarranted assumption as the basis of 
his argument, Ebert, and after him ten Brink, is equally at 

1 Studien, p. 72. 


fault. The statement made by the former that Chaucer makes 
Pandarus represent his own ironical mood toward chivalrous love 
is entirely gratuitous. And on this assertion ten Brink bases his 
argument. Moreover, the case of Cervantes and Don Quixote, 
while it serves well to rebut Kissner's statement, is hardly a 
parallel to Chaucer's case. Chivalry in Cervantes' day bore a 
very different relation to the life of the time from that which 
chivalrous love bore to the life of Chaucer's time ; at least, to 
that particular phase of the life with which Chaucer was most 
intimately associated. Chivalry, when Don Quixote was written, 
was on its last legs ; it had been practically dead for a century 
or more. On the other hand, love was a very vital question in all 
the higher circles at the time at which Chaucer wrote. From 
the early feudal days, love was the ruling spirit in courtly society. 
The opening lines of the Chatelain de Coucy tell us : 

Amours . . . est principaument 
Voie de vie honnestement. 

And love-making was considered as the great business of social 
life. 1 That these ideas persisted to the later times in France 
is shown by the works of such writers as Machaut, Deschamps, 
and Froissart, in which no suspicion of burlesque may be found. 
In England at the court of Richard II, one form of entertain- 
ment was the division into the orders of the Flower and the 
Leaf, and the discussion of the qualities for which these em- 
blems stood. All the members of this courtly group were sup- 
posed to be lovers, and were designated as " servants of love." 2 
The fact that Chaucer was poet to this courtly society makes 
it seem highly improbable that he would deliberately set out to 
satirize the thing in which his patrons were highly interested 
especially in a work with which he would be particularly anxious 
to please them. 

1 Wright, Womankind in Western Europe > London, 1869, p. 167. 

2 Kittredge, Modem Philology, I, 2. 


But aside from these considerations, Chaucer, as an artist, was 
particularly interested, in the Troilus, in the portrayal of his 
actors as real people. He presents his figures dramatically, and 
their characters come out in their speech and their action. Critics 
cannot with right hold as Chaucer's own views what he puts into 
the mouths of the persons in the story. If this be done, where 
shall the process stop ? We could just as fairly hear Chaucer 
speak through Troilus, on whom much of Pandarus's cynicism 
is vented, as through Pandarus himself. Criseyde expresses her- 
self in a very pronounced manner to the effect that the gods are 
liars and were first made by men's fear. 1 Are we to infer then 
that Chaucer has in him a vein of skepticism, because this 
charming woman has ? Manifestly such a process is all wrong. 

But, assuming with Ebert and ten Brink that Pandarus does 
voice Chaucer's own opinions, let us see what Pandarus's love 
philosophy is. I shall take his expressions which bear on the 
subject of love in the order in which they occur. When he 
is trying to get Troilus to tell the name of the lady who has 
caused all his sorrow, he argues that it will be a wise thing for 
the lover to confide in some one whom he can trust (i, 98-99). 
This argument recalls the courtly love doctrine as expressed in 
the Romance of the Rose : 

Therefore I rede thee that thou get 
A felowe that can wel concele 
And kepe thy counsel, and wel hele, 
To whom go shewe hooly thyn herte 
Bothe wele and wo, joye and smerte. 2 

And in connection with this, we may observe Pandarus's argu- 
ment : " Both thou and I complain of love ; in truth I am so 
full of sorrow, that no more misfortune can sit on me for want 
of space. If thou art not afraid that I shall beguile thee of thy 
lady, tell me thy woe ; for I am he whom thou trustest most " 

1 iv, 201-202. 2 Eng. Trans., 11. 2856-2860. 


(i, 102-103). In the same connection, Pandarus urges his friend 
to take some steps toward helping himself. 

For this nis not, certeyn, the nexte wyse 
To winnen love, as techen us the wyse, 
To walwe and wepe as Niobe the quene, 
Whos teres yet in marbel been y-sene. 

He follows up his argument in great detail. But he makes it 
very clear that he recognizes that Troilus has just cause for his 
woe. As he says : " I grant well that thou endurest woe as sharp 
as doth Tityrus in hell, whose stomach the vultures devour. But 
I may not endure that thou persist in the unreasonable opinion 
that there is no cure for thy woe " (i, 1 13). " Many a lover has 
known his lady twenty years, and never kissed her" (i, 116). 
Should he therefore fall into despair, or slay himself ? 

Nay, nay, but ever in oon be fresh and grene 
To serve and love his dere herte quene, 
And thenke it is a guerdon hir to serve 
A thousand-fold more than he can deserve. 

This is fine courtly love doctrine ; and it is interesting to note 
that it is just what Pandarus practised in his own love affairs. 
Pandarus 's remarks are full of common sense ; but they are not 
directed against Troilus's being woeful ; the lover was expected 
to do that, and Pandarus recognized it. But his arguments are 
all against his friend's doing nothing to help himself; and 
Troilus, who was a good courtly lover, saw the wisdom of his 
advice and decided to act upon it (i, 118). 

Another point on which Pandarus is fully in accord with the 
courtly ideas is his belief that love comes to one from the god 
of Love, and at his whim. He says to Troilus : 

Love hath beset thee wel, be of good chere. 
. . . for nought but good it is 
To loven wel, and in a worthy place ; 
Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace. 


Troilus has fallen in love entirely by the grace of his god, who 
arbitrarily makes whom he will to love. Pandarus's advice, imme- 
diately following, certainly does anything but satirize courtly 
love ; for he urges Troilus to repent of his sins against the god, 
and he reminds him that his most grievous sins consisted in 
making fun of courtly lovers (i, 131, 132, 133). To Troilus, at 
least, this advice was serious, for he acted upon it at once. 

We may note, too, in this passage Pandarus's remark that 
" nought but good it is to love well," as a sample of courtly phi- 
losophy, which is everywhere found in the love literature. After 
the lover has made a confession of his sins, Pandarus advises 

Be diligent and treive, and ay ivel hyde. 
Be lusty, free, persevere in thy servyse, 
And al is wel, if thou werke in this wyse. 

That is, he tells him to be just what the conventional courtly 
lover was expected to be : diligent, loyal, secret, lusty, generous, 
and faithful in his service of his lady. 

Following up the counsel of Pandarus, we find that what he 
says on the subject of constancy accords well with courtly ideas : 

... he that parted is in every place 

Is nowhere hool, as writen clerkes wyse ; 

What wonder is though swich oon have no grace ? 

"It is just like planting a tree and then pulling it up the next 
day. No wonder it does not thrive. Therefore," he continues, 
" stand fast, since the god of Love has bestowed you in a worthy 
place" (i, 138-139). 

When he begins to work with Criseyde, his whole argument 
is based on the courtly idea that beauty is the cause of love, and 
that a woman is entirely responsible for the love that her beauty 
inspires ; and he strengthens his case by reminding her that 
a man may be led to do desperate things because of love 
(ii, 16-50). 


Wo worth the faire gemme vertulees ! 
Wo worth that herbe also that dooth no bote ! 
Wo worth that beautee that is routhelees ! 
Wo worth that wight that tret ech under f ote ! 
And ye, that been of beautee crop and rote, 
If ther-with-al in you ther be no routhe, 
Than is it harm ye liven, by my trouthe ! 

Finally, when he is about to arrange the meeting between the 
two lovers at the house of Deiphebus, he gives this comfort to 

1 roilus : And certainly, I noot if thou it wost, 

But tho that been expert in love it seye, 

It is oon of the thinges that furthereth most, 

A man to have a leyser for to preye, 

And siker place his wo for to biwreye ; 

For in good herte it moot som routhe impresse 

To here and see the giltles in distresse (ii, 196). 

Other passages might be cited to indicate Pandarus's love philos- 
ophy, but these will suffice to show that if Chaucer intended to 
use him to satirize the courtly love, he puts into the mouth of 
his character strange doctrines for his purpose. 

On the other hand, these doctrines are quite consistent with 
Pandarus, as he is portrayed in the poem. He himself is a lover, 
and a very sentimental one too. He himself tells us : 

I love oon best, and that me smerteth sore ; 

So ful of sorwe am I, soth for to seyne, 

That certeynly no more harde grace 

May sitte on me, for-why there is no space. 

The author informs us, 

That Pandarus, for al his wyse speche, 
Felte eek his part of lovers shottes kene, 
That, coude he never so wel of loving preche, 
It made his he we a-day ful ofte grene ; 
So shoop it, that him fil that day a tene 
In love, for which in wo to bedde he wente, 
And made er it was day, ful many a wente (ii, 9). 


Whatever conception we may have of Pandarus, at the bottom 
of it must be the fact that he is a lover. His words may be sus- 
ceptible of different interpretations ; but, by his own testimony, 
by that of Troilus, of Criseyde, and lastly by that of the author 
himself, his sentimentality is a fact. This side of his nature is 
clearly indicated. 

There is another side which comes out with equal clearness, 
and that is his cynicism. It is not at all an easy matter to 
reconcile these two phases of his character, nor shall I attempt 
to do so. This may be said, however, that if Pandarus does 
make fun of lovers and their actions, and he really seems to 
do so in places independent of those passages which I have 
quoted to show his love philosophy, Chaucer has made of him 
a splendidly human figure. For in laughing at the actions of 
another and then in going straight and doing, himself, the very 
things he laughed at, he behaves as many of us have often 
done. Nothing could be more natural, and it is in this very 
trait that much of the humor of this humorous character consists. 

It should be remembered, however, that what is sometimes 
called cynicism in Pandarus, is not, or at least need not be, 
cynicism at all. A good example of this is found in what is 
regarded as his cynical attitude toward the virtue of women. It 
is clear from the story, and from Pandarus's own statements, 
that he had no reason to think that every woman was so easily 
accessible. Troilus says to him : 

Thou coudest never in love thy-selven wisse ; 
How devel maystow bringen me to blisse ? 

Pandarus himself, after he has about arranged matters so as to 
bring the two lovers together, says (and this time he seems to 

be serious) : 

Have now good night, . . . 

And bid for me, sin thou art now in blisse, 

That god me sende deeth or sone lisse (iii, 49). 


And another time, when Troilus is bewailing the loss of Cri- 
seyde, Pandarus remarks: "You have no right to sorrow in 
this wise, since you have had all your desire. 

But I, that never felte in my servyse 

A frendly chere or loking of an ye, 

Lat me thus wepe and wayle, til I dye " (iv, 37). 

Pandarus's remark to Criseyde, with regard to his speed in 
By god ... I hoppe alwey bihinde ! 

though spoken as a joke, was really the truth. We have already 
seen the character of the love which Troilus and Criseyde felt 
for each other ; and our acquaintance with Pandarus, who was 
a courtly lover, does not lead us to think that his love was of a 
different nature. So that Pandarus's theory that all women are 
of easy virtue, if he really believed such a thing, was entirely a 
theory, as far as his own lady was concerned. 

The case of -another woman may also be considered, namely, 
his niece Criseyde. He remarks that all women are apt to 
suffer the heat of love, either celestial or natural. So far, he 
has made an observation which comes near to being true. But 
he continues that since Criseyde is far from being " celestial," 
it follows that she must suffer the other kind of love. From 
what we have seen of Criseyde, Pandarus is quite right. So 
that, if our observations with regard to the heroine are correct, 
Pandarus's remarks show no cynicism at all ; but they do show 
that he knew his niece well, a fact which we might infer from 
the manner in which he proceeded to win her love for Troilus. 

Furthermore, we should note that Pandarus often talks for 
effect, "for the nones," as Chaucer tells us (iv, 62). His 
genuine friendship for Troilus is one of the most noticeable 
things about him ; and it really lies at the bottom of much of 
his bantering talk. This is to be observed particularly in those 


places where the ultra-sentimental Troilus is inclined to indulge 
himself in his grief, rather than to take any steps toward help- 
ing himself. For example, in the first book, Pandarus really 
sees the need of arousing his friend to some kind of action. 
It was a well-recognized principle in the courtly system that a 
man may either die or go mad for love. The literature is full 
of expressions of this idea. The author tells us that in spite of 
all Pandarus 's coaxing and urging, Troilus would not reveal 
the name of the lady who was causing him all this sorrow, but 
lay there rolling his eyes and sighing. Pandarus really feared 
lest he should fall in a frenzy, or even die ; and so he cried 
" 'awake' ful wonderly and sharp," and followed it up with rather 
biting words (i, 104-105). Pandarus recognizes the fact that 
his friend is in a bad state, and that any talk that will arouse 
him is better than to let him remain in a desperation that may 
lead him to some fatal act. 

He follows the same tactics in the fourth book, when he 
finds Troilus in the depths over the recent decree of the Parlia- 
ment. He immediately begins to propose measures which he 
does not believe in himself, and, I have no doubt, which he 
knows his friend will not adopt. He says : " This town is full 
of ladies, and much fairer ones, too, than Criseyde. Choose 
one of these for your love. * The newe love out chaceth ofte 
the olde,' Zanzis tells us. It is your duty to save yourself, and 
the way to do it is by choosing another love. Absence of Cri- 
seyde shall drive her out of your heart" (iv, 58-61). Nothing 
more uncourtly than this advice could be imagined, and Pan- 
darus knew it. But it does not represent Pandarus's feelings, 
for the poet tells us : 

Thise wordes seyde he for the nones alle, 

To helpe his freend, lest he for sorwe deyde. 

For doutelees, to doon his wo to falle, 

He roughte not what unthrift that he seyde (iv, 62). 


And after Troilus has effectually answered these arguments, 
and, it seems, almost quieted him for once, 

. . . nathelees, thus thoughte he at the laste, 
' What, parde, rather than my felawe dye, 
Yet shal I som-what more un-to him seye.' 

And so he starts off again in his bantering style. 

But even Pandarus's patience and it has been great, we 
must acknowledge is at last exhausted. And here a new side 
to his character is revealed. After setting forth every argument 
in favor of withholding Criseyde, he says to the lover : " Take 
heart and remember that every law is broken on account of 
love. Show your courage and your power ; have some mercy 
on yourself, and do not let this wretched woe gnaw your heart. 
Set the world, like a man, ' on six and seven.' " And then flash 
out the words : 

I wol myself be with thee at this dede, 
Though ich and all my kin, upon a stounde 
Shulle in a strete as dogges liggen dede 
Thourgh-girt with many a wyd and blody wounde. 
In every cas I wol a freend be founde, 
And if thee list here sterven as a wrecche 
Adieu, the devel spede him that it recche ! 

Here the valor of the man is speaking, and it is the only time 
in the poem that this side of him is revealed. 

It is not intended here to make an exhaustive study of this 
great character delineation. The preceding paragraphs point 
out the important phases of Pandarus's nature. He is first 
of all a lover, and has therefore his sentimental side. He is 
loyal to his friend, sparing no effort to help him and promis- 
ing desperate valor if the occasion demands it. And lastly, he 
is cynical ; although the foregoing remarks, if they are correct, 
show that his cynicism can easily be, and sometimes has been, 


As for Chaucer's irony in treating the courtly love ideas, 
however certain we feel that he saw the extravagances of lovers 
and the absurdity in some of their actions, we cannot say that 
he satirizes that love in the Troihis. And further we have 
seen, I think, that even the satire of Pandarus himself, who has 
been supposed to express the poet's irony, is no more charac- 
teristic than is his sentimentality ; and that the inconsistency of 
the two elements in him helps to make him not only a delight- 
fully humorous figure, but also, like Troilus and Criseyde, an 
eminently human one. 

A very interesting feature of the Troilus and Criseyde is the 
author's treatment of the love divinity. The double personifica- 
tion of love noted in the earlier poetry appears here also. The 
deity is sometimes Cupid, sometimes Venus ; often simply 
Love. In many passages the personification does not admit of 
classification in categories which are exclusive ; for example, 
Criseyde revolves in her mind the wisdom and " gentilnesse " 
of Troilus, 

Thankinge Love he so wel hir besette. 

Troilus also thanks " the heighe worthinesse of Love " that he 
is Criseyde's lover. The idea of the god as a benevolent lord 
in these passages might be applicable to any one of the three 
conceptions of the love divinity, the classical, the ecclesiastical, 
or the feudal. Similarly, the idea of service and obedience ren- 
dered the god, which appears in so many passages, is not in- 
consistent with either the ecclesiastical or the feudal figure. For 
example, Pandarus, when he persuades Criseyde to grant Troilus 
her love, swears by Minerva, by Jupiter, 

And by the blisful Venus that I serve. 

Criseyde speaks of Pandarus as the one 

That alderfirst me broughte into servyse 
Of love. 


Diomede assures Criseyde : 

And though ye Troians with us Grekes wrothe 
Han many a day be, alwey yet, pardee, 

god of love in sooth, we serven bothe. . . . 
Eek I am not of power for to stryve 

Ayens the god of love, but him obeye 

1 wol alwey. 

And Troilus, who has come into such great happiness himself, 

lost held every wight 
But if he were in loves high servyse. 

These last lines might be interpreted in the ecclesiastical sense, 
as if the idea were borrowed from the Church's doctrine that 
every man is in a lost condition who is not engaged in the 
service of religion. 

Apart from such passages in which the figure is doubtful, 
there are many in the Troilus which illustrate clearly the three 
conceptions of the love divinity. The classical idea appears in 
the humorous description of the god's attack on the haughty 
Troilus : 

At which [i.e. at Troilus's words] the god of love gan loken rowe 
Right for despyt and shoop for to ben wroken ; 
He kidde anoon his bowe nas nat broken ; 
For sodeynly he hit him at the fulle ; 
And yet as proud a pekok can he pulle. 

This delightfully fresh expression of an old conceit, the wound 
inflicted in a lover's heart by Cupid's arrow, is the only case in 
which the god appears with his weapons. The poet includes, 
however, " daun Cupyde, the blind and winged sone " of Venus, 
among those who had deigned to guide him to the end of his 
third book. 

The feudal conception of the divinity, always a being of 
irresistible power, also appears in the Troilus. For example, 
the poet, digressing for a moment, moralizes with his inimitable 
humor on the foolishness of resisting Love as Troilus attempted 


to do : " As ' proude Bayarde ' whose corn ' priketh him ' is 
brought to endure horses' law by a lash of the long whip, so 
this worthy king's son, 

that now was most in pryde above, 
Wex sodeynly most subjet unto love. 

" Therefore," continues the author, "all ye wise, proud, and 
worthy folks, beware of scorning Love, 

which that so sone can 
The freedom of your hertes to him thralle ; 
For ever it was, and ever it shal bifalle 
That Love is he that alle thing may binde. . . . 
Refuseth not to Love to be bonde, 
Sin, as himselven list, he may you binde. 

The feudal idea of the lover as a thrall or subject of Love, which 
is seen in these lines, appears also in the following, where the 
poet, in an interesting and effective manner, has mixed his 
metaphors, making Troilus subject to the fire of love : 

In him ne deyned sparen blood royal 

The fyr of love, the wher-fro god me blesse, 

Ne him forbar in no degre, for al 

His vertu or his excellent prowesse ; 

But held him as his thral lowe in distresse, 

And brende him so in sondry wise ay newe 

That sixty tyme aday he loste his hewe. 

But for the ecclesiastical figure Chaucer shows especial fond- 
ness in the Troilus. At the very beginning of the work, after 
announcing his purpose, he calls upon the Fury Tisiphone for 
her help ; for, although he is a servant of those who serve the 
god of Love, on account of his unfitness to love he dares not 
pray to the god for speed in his task, so far is he from Love's 
help in darkness. " Yet," he says, 

" if this may doon gladnesse 
To any lover, and his cause avayle, 
Have he my thank, and myn be this travayle ! " 


He then calls upon all fortunate lovers, remembering their past 
sorrows, to pray for their unfortunate brethren like Troilus, that 
Love may bring them in heaven " to solas " ; to pray for those 
who are in despair in love and never will recover from it ; to 
pray also that God may permit all those lovers whose interests 
are wrongly injured by evil tongues, to leave the miseries of this 
world ; finally, to pray God that he continue his favor to all 
lovers who are now at ease, and send them might to please their 
ladies, so that it may be honor and pleasure to love. He asks 
also for their prayers in his own behalf, that he may show in his 
story such pain and woe as Love's folk endure ; for he hopes 
to advance the interests of his own soul by praying for Love's 
servants, by writing their woes, and by being charitably disposed 
toward them all, as toward his own dear brothers. 

This passage is full of ecclesiastical ideas. In saying of 


I that god of Loves servants serve, 

Chaucer is either daringly or na'fvely paraphrasing the official 
title of the Pope, used in the introductory greetings of all papal 
bulls, 1 in which the Pope speaks of himself as servus servorum 
Dei. The attitude of extreme humility which the poet assumes 
before the god of Love is noteworthy as a parallel to the self- 
abasement of many saints before the real God. He does not 
even dare to pray for help on account of his unfitness to love. 
In comparison with this humility, we may call to mind the atti- 
tude of John the Baptist, as shown in his words : " There cometh 
one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am 
not worthy to stoop down and unloose " ; 2 or that of Saint Paul, 

1 See Smith and Cheetham, Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, under 
" Briefs and Bulls." Thus the famous bull " Regimini militantis," confirming 
the order of Jesuits, issued by Pope Paul III in 1540, begins : " Paulus episco- 
pus, servus servorum Dei, ad perpetuam rei memoriam. Regimini militantis 
ecclesiae, &c." 

2 Mark i, 7. 


who says of himself : "Unto me, who am less than the least of 
all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach . . . the un- 
searchable riches of Christ." l The self-abasement of the old 
saints finds a striking and almost repulsive expression in the 
lines of the modern poet : 

Altho' I be the basest of mankind, 
From scalp to sole one slough and crust of sin, 
Unfit for earth, unfit for heaven, scarce meet 
For troops of devils, mad with blasphemy, 
I will not cease to grasp the hope I hold 
Of saintdom, and to clamour, mourn and sob, 
Battering the gates of heaven with storms of prayer, 
Have mercy, Lord, and take away my sin. 

Yet the sentiments ascribed by Tennyson to St. Simeon Stylites 
are not at all exaggerated, as may be seen by comparing them 
with the following lamentation of Saint Augustine, one of the 
most elaborate of such self-derogatory expressions : " Quid sum 
ego, qui loquor tecum ? Vae mihi, Domine, parce mihi : ego 
cadaver putridum, esca vermium, vas fetidum, cibus ignium. 
. . . Quid iterum ego ? Abyssus tenebrosa, terra miseriae, 
films irae, vas aptum ad contumeliam, genitus per immunditiam, 
vivens in miseria, moriturus in angustia. . . . Et quid sum ? 
Vas sterquilinii, concha putredinis, plenus fetore et horrore : 
caecus, pauper, nudus, plurimis necessitatibus subditus, ignorans 
introitum et exitium meum." 2 

We may compare Chaucer's statement that he is far from 
Love's help in darkness with the following prayer attributed to 
Saint Augustine : " O God our Father, . . . hear me, who am 
trembling in this darkness, and stretch forth Thy hands unto 
me ; hold forth Thy light before me ; recall me from my wan- 
derings ; and Thou being my Guide, may I be restored to 

1 Ephesians iii, 8. 

2 Liber Soliloquiorum ; Migne, Patrologia, XL, col. 866-867. 


myself and to Thee." 1 Another notable example from the same 
saint is the following : " O Domini Verbum, O Deus Verbum, 
. . . vae mihi misero toties obcaecato, quia tu lux, et ego sine 
te ; . . . O Domine Verbum, O Deus Verbum, qui es lux per 
quam facta est lux, . . . die, Domine, * Fiat lux/ ut videam 
lucem et vitem tenebras. . . . Illuminare, Dominus lux mea, 
illuminatio mea, illuminare huic caeco tuo qui in tenebris et in 
umbra mortis sedet." 2 Such expressions from the saints of the 
Church, who, oppressed with the consciousness of sin, felt that 
they were in " outer darkness " away from the light of God's 
countenance, seem to have been in Chaucer's mind when writing 
the introductory stanzas to the Troilus. 
In the last lines of the third stanza, 

if this doon gladnesse 
To any lover, and his cause avayle 
Have he my thank, and myn be this travayle ! 

Chaucer applies the ecclesiastical doctrine of merit to love the 
doctrine that the merit attaching to any good work may be im- 
puted to the doer or to some other to whom he chooses to trans- 
fer it. 3 It is interesting to note the poet's clever use in the last 

1 Tileston, Prayers Ancient and Modern, New York, 1897, p. 344. See also 

PP- 5775>9 2 J 3 8 196, 3 1 2 - 

2 Liber Soliloquiorum ; Migne, Patrologia, XL, col. 867-868. 

8 The following is St. Thomas Aquinas's statement with regard to " opera 
supererogativa " ; quoting from the Vitae Patrum, he says : " quod propter 
charitatem unius qui alterius fratris sui charitate ductus poenitentiam fecit pro 
peccato quod non commiserat, alteri peccatum quod commiserat dimissum est " 
(Migne, Patrologia, Supplement to Tertia Pars Summae Theologicae, Questio 
XIII, art. ii, col. 970). This same writer says elsewhere : "All the saints intended 
that whatever they did or suffered for God's sake should be profitable not only 
to themselves but to the whole of the church. And he further points out 
(Contra Gent., Ill, 158) that what one endures for another, being a work of 
love, is more acceptable as satisfaction in God's sight than what one suffers 
on one's own account, since this is a matter of necessity " ( The Catholic En- 
cyclopedia, article on "Indulgences," VII, 784). Applications of the doctrine 
in prayers of Chaucer's time are frequent Examples of such prayers may be 
seen in the Lay Folks' Mass Book, pp. 65, 69, 78, Early English Text Society 


line of a sentence addressed by Boccaccio to his mistress at the 
beginning of the Filostrato, and the shift of meaning to make it 
accord with the spirit of the rest of the passage and give it 
a religious significance. 

In the following stanzas, the poet's call for the prayers of 
happy lovers in behalf of others less fortunate is phrased in 
ecclesiastical language and reflects the practices of believers in 
the matter of prayer. He asks for prayer in behalf of those who 
are in the unhappy condition of Troilus, that they may come 
to solace in heaven ; and for those who have despaired in love 
and never will recover. Chaucer here seems to have in mind 
the doctrine that despair damned the soul of him who gave away 
to it. 1 Further, he asks the prayers of lovers for those who are 
now at ease ; that is, he advises happy lovers to pray for them- 
selves that God grant them perseverance in their good work 
of pleasing their ladies ; for this is honor and pleasure to the 
god of Love. The doctrine of perseverance was familiar to good 
Catholics before Calvin put forth his celebrated Five Points. 
The Church held that perseverance was the gift of God, and 
could be obtained by an appeal through prayer, not to the justice 
of God, but to his mercy and kindness. 2 Chaucer's line clearly 
applies this idea to love. 

In the passage, 

For so hope I my soule best avaunce 

To preye for hem that Loves servaunts be 

And wryte hir wo, and live in charitee, 

Publications, 1879. Note too the conclusion of the Oratio ad Erasmtim, 
appended to his Life : 

Non noceat facinus : mihi, me iuvet almus Erasmus. 
O sacer Erasme : meritis precibusque regas me ! 

Horstmann, Sammlung altenglischer Legenden, 
Heilbronn, 1881, p. 200. 

1 Persones Tale, sect. 56. 

2 " Hoc ergo (i.e. perseverance) Dei donum suppliciter emereri potest " 
(Saint Augustine, Liber de Dono Perseverantiae, Cap. vi). 


the poet makes use of another theological idea. Good works 
held, and yet hold, an important place in the Catholic practice. 
By good works the Christian merits reward from God. 1 To read 
the life of a saint was an act of special merit. 2 To read the lives 
of the saints was not only to keep oneself from idleness, but to 
inflame oneself with the desire to imitate their virtues. For the 
same reason, to write the lives of saints was a meritorious act. 
Chaucer has in mind this method of acquiring merit in the lines 
quoted. Later, when he wrote the Legend of Cupid's saints, he 
elaborated very skilfully the same conception ; for in writing the 
Legend of Good Women he atones for his sins against the god 
of Love. 

We pass to other examples of the use of ecclesiastical ideas. 
Troilus, overcome by Love, cries " with pitous voys " : 

" O lord, now youres is 
My spirit, which that oughte youres be. 
Yow thanke I, lord, that han me brought to this." 

This is the language natural for a penitent sinner to use in the 
act of yielding his soul to God. It carries out the idea of the 
preceding passage, that Troilus has up to this point been a trans- 
gressor against the god of Love, but has been brought to see 
the true light through the operation of the god upon him, as the 
spirit of God works upon the heart of the sinner. 

1 See Catholic Dictionary under " Merit." 

2 Note the introduction to the Vita Sancti Cristofori (from MS. Cathedral, 
ca. 1430) : " Here bygynnes the lyffe of the Story of Saynte Cristofore, to the 
heryng or the redyng of the whilke storye langes . . . mede, & it be done with 
devocione " (Horstmann, Altenglische Legenden, Neue Folge, Heilbronn, 1881, 
p. 454) ; also the words of the teller of a saint's life : 

And 3if 3e wille 3eve lestyng, 

Se shollen here ri^t guod J>yng 

Er 36 hannes wende : 

Pardoun 30 mowe }>erwij> wynne 

And J?e betere 3ow kepe from dedly synne, 

3if 3e wille have it in mende. 

Canticum de Creatione, St. 3, Samml. alteng. Leg., p. 124. 


Pandarus, attempting to move Criseyde to pity, invents a 
prayer which he pretends to have heard Troilus utter : 

" Lord ! have routhe upon my prayer, 
Al have I been rebel in myn entente, 
Now, mea culpa, lord! I me repente." 

" O god, thou that hast in thy power the death of every wight, 
hear my humble confession with favor, and send me such pen- 
ance as is pleasing to thee ; but for thy goodness' sake, shield 
me from despair which would separate my soul from thee." 
The ideas of this passage are purely theological. Troilus uses the 
regular formula employed by penitents. 1 The idea is elaborated 
in his asking for penance. In the lines, 

but from desesperaunce, 
That may my goost departe awey fro thee, 
Thou be my sheld, for thy benignitee, 

Chaucer has in mind the doctrine, already referred to, that de- 
spair damns the soul. Men were always falling into despair and, 
hence, according to the Church, into deadly sin. The Parson 
describes it as " wanhope, that is despeir of the mercy of god, 
that comth somtyme of to muche outrageous sorwe, and somtyme 
of to much drede : imagininge that he hath doon so much sinne 
that it wol nat availlen him, though he wolde repenten him and 
forsake sinne. . . . Which dampnable sinne, if that it continue 
unto his ende, it is cleped sinning in the holy gost. This horrible 
sinne is so perilous, that he that is despeired, ther is no felonye 
ne no sinne that he douteth for to do ; as shewed wel by Judas. 
Certes aboven alle sinnes thanne is this sinne most displesant to 

1 Note the following words from a mediaeval Order of Mass : " Confiteor 
Deo, beatae Mariae, et omnibus sanctis eius . . . quia ego peccator peccavi 
nimis corde, ore, opere, omissione mea culpa, &c." (Lay Folks' Mass Book, p. 90); 
also : " Confiteor Deo omnipotenti . . . quia peccavi nimis cogitatione, verbo 
et opere, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" (Prayer Book of the 
Catholic Church, 1896). 


Christ, and most adversaria." 1 Even in modern times men are 
not free from the sin of falling into despair. The most pictur- 
esque statement, perhaps, of the awfulness of the sin to be found 
in literature has been given us by Bunyan in the story of the 
encounter of Christian and Hopeful with the Giant Despair. 

In the first stanzas of Antigone's song in the garden, both 
the feudal and ecclesiastical figures appear. The idea of paying 
tribute as a vassal to the god is seen in the lines : 

O love, to whom I have and shal 
Ben humble subgit, trewe in myn entente, 
As I best can, to yow, lord, yeve ich al 
Forever more, myn hertes lust to rente. 

Antigone means that she will concentrate all the desires of her 
heart on love ; in so doing, she will be but rendering to the 
god of Love the service which is due him as her lord and 
master. Coleridge expresses, in effect, the same idea : 

All thoughts, all passions, all delights, 

Whatever stirs this mortal frame, 
All are but ministers of Love, 

And feed his sacred flame. 

And we may further compare the biblical command : "Thou shalt 
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, 
and with all thy mind." 2 Though the feudal idea is clearly 
present in the passage, the ecclesiastical is so closely blended 
with it that it is almost impossible to separate the two. The 
ecclesiastical feature is plainer perhaps in the lines immediately 
following, in which the Christian idea of grace is employed : 

For never yet thy grace no wight sente 
So blisful cause as me, my lyf to lede 
In alle joye and seurtee, out of drede. 

Antigone's idea is that the god has bestowed upon her a special 
grace in inclining her heart to love, and in so ordering her life 

1 Persones Tale, 692-696. 

2 Matthew, xxxi, 37. Cf. Luke x, 27 ; Deuteronomy vi, 5. 


that the object of her love is worthy. The rest of her song, in 
fact, is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to the god who had 
her " so wel beset in love." Antigone's remarks should be in- 
terpreted in connection with Pandarus's comforting philosophy, 
addressed to Troilus : 

And f or-thy loke of good comfort thou be ; 

For certainly, the firste poynt is this 

Of noble orage and wel ordeyne, 

A man to have pees with him-self , y-wis ; 

So oughtest thou, for nought but good it is 

To loven wel, and in a worthy place ; 

Thee oughte not to clepe it hap, but grace 1 (i, 128). 

To Pandarus, as to Antigone, falling in love was not an accident, 
but a manifestation of the special grace of the god of Love, who 
had a right arbitrarily to make one fall in love with anybody ; 
and, in Pandarus's opinion, Troilus ought to believe this and 
thank the god for the experience. The doctrine is fully stated 
in the Proem to Book III, in the lines addressed to Venus : 

Ye knowe al thilke covered qualitee 

Of thinges which that folk on wondren so, 

Whan they can not construe how it may jo, 

She loveth him, or why he loveth here ; 

As why this fish, and nought that, cometh to were. 

Still another interesting illustration of the application of 
religious ideas to love is seen in Chaucer's use of Dante's lines 
addressed to the Blessed Virgin : 

Donna, sei tanto grande e tanto vali, 

che qual vuol grazia ed a te non ricorre, 

sua disianza vuol volar senz' ali. 
La tua benignita non pur socorre 

a chi domanda, ma molte fiate 

liberamente al domandar precorre. 2 

1 Cf. for the same expression, 

Shal I clepe hit hap other grace 

That broghte me ther ? Book of the Duchess ; 11. 810-811. 

2 Paradiso, xxxiii, 13 ff. 


The poet transfers the praise of the Virgin to Love : 

Benigne Love, thou holy bond of thinges 
Who so wol grace and list thee nought honouren 
Lo his desyr wol flee withouten winges. 
For noldestow of bountee hem socouren 
That serven best and most alwey labouren 
Yet were al lost, that dar I wel seyn, certeyn 
But-if thy grace passed our desertes. 1 

In Troilus's prayer to Venus, when he is about to go to Cri- 
seyde's bed, the idea of the goddess's intercession is probably 
borrowed from the worship of the Virgin as a mediator between 
God and man : 

And if I hadde, O Venus ful of mirthe, 
Aspects badde of Mars or of Saturne, 
Or thou combust or let were in my birthe 
Thy fader pray al thilke harm disturne 
Of grace. 

This conception is so common in religious literature that a mere 
mention of it here is sufficient. As an example of Chaucer's own 
prayer for the Virgin's intercession, the following lines may be 

O thou, that art so fayr and ful of grace, 
Be myn advocat in that heighe place 
Ther-as withouten ende is songe ' Osanne,' 
Thou Christes mooder, doghter dere of Anne ! 2 

After Pandarus had arranged the meeting of the two lovers 
at the house of Deiphebus, he hurried home with the news to 
Troilus, greeting him with the words : 

now is tyme, if that thou conne, 
To bere thee wel to-morwe, and al is wonne. 
Now spek, now prey, now pitously compleyne ; 
Lat not for nyce shame, or drede, or slouthe ; 

1 Compare Chaucer's use of the same passage in the Invocacio ad Mariam 
in his life of St. Cecilia (Seconds Nonnes Tale). 

2 Seconde Nonnes Tale, 11. 67-70. 


Som-tyme a man mot telle his owene peyne ; 

Bileve it, and she shal han on thee routhe ; 

Thou shalt be saved by thy fey th, in trouthe (ii, 214, 215). 

The reference is clearly to the gospel stories, such as that of the 
woman who anointed the Master's feet with the precious oint- 
ment, and who received His commendation : " Thy faith hath 
saved thee ; go in peace." 1 

On this same occasion of the meeting at the house of Deiphe- 
bus, Criseyde accepted Troilus as her lover, under well-defined 
conditions. Whereupon Pandarus, in his exultation, fell upon 
his knees and, raising his eyes to heaven, cried : 

Immortal god ! . . . that mayst nought dyen, 
Cupide I mene, of this mayst glorifye ; 
And Venus, thou mayst make melodye ; 
With-outen hond, me semeth that in towne, 
For this merveyle, I here ech belle sowne. 

Pandarus's reference here to the bells ringing without hands is 
an expression of an idea not uncommon in mediaeval literature. 
To the simple-minded believer, the bell thus miraculously ring- 
ing was God's voice of approval of something done, or of 
protest against some wickedness committed or about to be 
committed. We read in the ballad of " Hugh of Lincoln " 

And a' the bells o merry Lincoln 
Without men's hands were rung, 
And a' the books o merry Lincoln 
Were read without man's tongue, 
And neer was such a burial 
Sin Adam's days begun. 

Similarly, in the romance of La Bone Florence de Rome, we 
are told that on the heroine's approach to the city all the bells, 
of one accord, began to ring without the help of men's hands. 2 

1 Luke vii, 50. Cf. also Mark v, 34 ; x, 52 ; Luke viii, 48 ; xvii, 19. 

2 On the miraculous ringing of bells see Child, English and Scottish Popular 
Ballads, I, 173, 231 ; III, 235, 519 ff. 


And so, to Pandarus's mind, no occasion can be more fitting 
for the approval of the divine powers than that on which 
Criseyde agrees to become the love of Troilus. 

The most elaborate use of the ecclesiastical figure in the 
poem is found in the instructions of Pandarus to Troilus after 
the youth had become a servant of the god of Love. Pandarus 
is surprised that such happiness has been bestowed upon Troi- 
lus. He could have sworn that such favor would never fall to 
one who had scorned Love and mockingly called him 
Seynt Idiot, lord of thise foles alle (i, 130). 

Furthermore, Troilus had scoffed at those who were devout in 
the religion of Love. Pandarus therefore advises him to beat 
his breast 1 and call upon the god of Love with all his heart : 

Thy grace, lord ! for now I me repente 
If I mis spak, for now myself I love. 

Troilus obeys, and Pandarus hopes that the lover's tears of 
repentance and his confession have appeased the wrath of the 
god. He then instructs Troilus how to conduct himself in 
order to make a good end of all this affair, and he comforts 
the young neophyte : 

" I thenke, sith that love, of his goodnesse, 
Hath thee converted out of wikkednesse, 
That thou shalt be the beste post, 2 I leve, 
Of al his lay, and most his foes to-greve." 

" Take, for example, these wise clerks who err most of all against 
religion : when once they have been converted from their 

1 Beating the breast was, of course, an outward manifestation of a peniten- 
tial spirit, and the celebrant was directed to do this as part of the act of 
confession and at other times in the celebration of the Mass. For examples of 
such directions see Richard Rolle, Prick of Conscience, 11. 3400-3409 ; Caxton, 
Book of Curtesye, 11. 73-74. 

2 Unto his ordre he was a noble post. 

Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 1. 214. 


wicked works through the grace of God, they, more than any 
others, hold Him in awe, and are the more steadfast in the new 
faith for their former rebellion against it." Pandarus might 
have cited as an example of a sudden conversion, such as he 
mentions, that of Saint Paul, as one which would fit his obser- 
vations exactly. Chaucer was probably thinking, however, of 
the case of Saint Augustine, whose zeal in the orthodox religion, 
after conversion from a worldly life and from the Manichean 
heresy, he has told in his Confessions. A very impressive in- 
stance of sudden conversion is told by Etienne de Bourbon. 1 
On a certain occasion, a church was being consecrated in which 
the body of Count Raoul of Crepy had been interred. It became 
necessary to disentomb the body of the count, and his sepulchre 
having been opened, " there appeared a monstrous toad on his 
face, gnawing at it, also worms and serpents. From the sight 
of horror all recoiled. The son of the said count, however, a 
young man, hearing of this, approached ; and having seen the 
corruption of his father's flesh and the horror of the worms, 
began to think of death, and of how vain are the riches of the 
world and its delights and honors. Wherefore, leaving all, he 
fled, thinking he should be happy if he should become poor for 
Christ." The story goes on to relate how he suffered hardships, 
hunger, and poverty and sickness until he " migrated to God." 
It is interesting to note that the passages quoted to illustrate 
the different conceptions of the love deity are almost all 
Chaucer's own. With the exception of the lines borrowed from 
Dante's Paradise, in only one of those passages which show the 
ecclesiastical idea is the language suggested by the Italian 
original. Chaucer's lines, 

O lord, now youres is 
My spirit which that oughte youres be, 

1 Anecdotes, Historiques, Legendes et Apologues, ed. A. Lecoy de la Marche, 
Paris, 1876, p. 66. Professor Kittredge calls my attention to this anecdote. 


are taken from Boccaccio's 

Signore, omai 

L'anima & tua che mia essere solea. 1 
In the original, the ecclesiastical figure is carried out where 

Troilo prays : p erc he, se '1 mio servir punto ti piace, 

Da que' ti prego impetri la salute 
Dell' anima, la qual prostrata giace 
Sotto i tuoi pie. 2 

Chaucer here changes to the feudal idea, employing it, not to 
describe the relation of the lover to the god, but to his lady : 

Wherefore, lord, if my servyse or I 
May lyke yow, so beth to me benigne, 
For myn estat royal I here resigne 
Into her hond, and with ful humble chere 
Bicome hir man, as to my lady dere. 

Then follows the passage already quoted, in which the power 
of love is figured as a flame. Boccaccio's words are : 

Non risparmiarono il sangue reale 
Ne d'animo virtu ovver grandezza 
Ne curaron di forza corporeale 
Che in Troilo fosse, o di prodezza, 
L'ardenti fiamme amorose. 8 

The feudal idea of the lover's thraldom to this powerful flame, 
which appears in the English poem, is Chaucer's own. In none 
of the other passages cited is the poet indebted for his ideas to 
anybody else. The telling use of " proude Bayard " and the 
accompanying stanzas, the fictitious prayer which Pandarus 
quotes to Criseyde, Antigone's song in the garden, Troilus's 
prayer to Venus, the stanzas in which Pandarus plays the high- 
priest of love and listens to Troilus's confession, are all the 
product of Chaucer's imagination. The raciness and fresh humor 
of these passages illustrate one of the distinctive qualities of the 

1 Filostrato, i, St. 38. 2 Ibid., st. 39. 3 Ibid., st. 40. 


English poet's work, and the passages themselves furnish ex- 
amples of his peculiar skill in the use of language to portray 
the passion of love. 

In connection with Chaucer's references to the love deity two 
other passages must be noted. The first is the song which 
Troilus sings in praise of Love while in the garden with 
Pandarus. The poet here paraphrases one of the Metres of the 
Consolation of Philosophy}- The general idea of the passage 
is that all concord and harmony existing in the material universe 
is but a manifestation of the power of love ; and that if love 
ceased to operate, all things which now work together in har- 
mony would be reduced to chaos. Love holds the seas in 
bounds and controls the movements of the heavenly bodies. 
This is the same Love 

that with an holsom alliaunce 
Halt peples joyned, as him list hem gye, 
Love, that knetteth lawe of companye, 
And couples doth in vertu for to dwelle (iii, 250). 

The term '"love" is here clearly used to designate the phe- 
nomenon of attraction, which must have been perfectly well 
known in the Middle Ages ; and this attraction is identified with 
the feeling which, either in the form of friendship or in the grosser 
form of physical passion, draws people to each other. 

Boethius derived the philosophy which Chaucer has here made 
use of, from Plato. In a passage of the Timaeus, the harmony 
existing in the world is explained as a manifestation of the 
spirit of friendship : " And for these reasons, and out of such 
elements, which are in number four, the body of the world was 
created, and it was harmonized by proportion, and therefore has 
the spirit of friendship ; and having been reconciled to itself, 
it was indissoluble by the hand of any other than the framer." 2 

1 Bk. iii, metre viii. 

2 The Dialogues of Plato, trans. Jowett, New York, 1892, III, 451. 


The Metre of Boethius expresses more closely, however, Emped- 
ocles's doctrine of the working of Love and Strife in the uni- 
verse ; and the Latin poet may have had in mind some such 
passage as the following, in which the philosopher expressly 
identifies the love which operates in the natural world as the 
power of attraction, with love existing in human hearts : "At 
one time, it [i.e. the Universe] grew together to be one only 
out of many, at another it parted asunder so as to be many in- 
stead of one ; Fire and Water and Earth and the mighty height 
of Air ; dread strife, too, apart from these, of equal weight to 
each, and Love among them, equal in length and breadth. Her 
do thou contemplate with thy mind, nor sit with dazed eyes. It 
is she that makes them have thoughts of love and work the works 
of peace. They call her by the names of Joy and Aphrodite." 1 
Boethius does not treat Love as a divinity, but merely personifies 
the abstraction. The song of Troilus does not differ greatly from 
the Latin Metre in this respect, although the general tone of the 
paraphrase, as well as the line, 

Al this doth Love ; ay heried be his mightes ! 

the second half of which is Chaucer's own, seems to indicate that 
the poet identifies personal love with the indefinite force of the 
philosophers, thinking of Love as a god. 

In the Proem to Book III, which is the second passage to be 
noted, the love divinity appears. This invocation is addressed 
to Venus, goddess of Love, and is a glorification of her power 
and goodness which are felt through all the universe, 

In heven and helle, in erthe and salte see. 

All nature, animate and inanimate, feels her influence at times ; 
she it was who first moved Jove to the creative act, 

Thorough which that thinges liven alle and be. 
1 Earty Greek Philosophy, ed. Burnet, London, 1908, p. 242. 

She ennobles those who come under her influence : 

Algate, hem that ye wol sette afyre, 

They dredden shame, and vices they resigne ; 

Ye do hem corteys be, fresshe and benigne. 

She binds together in harmony kingdom and family ; she is 
the 'cause of friendship, and that mysterious power which draws 
people together in love emanates from her. This Proem is a 
close translation from the Filostrato, being taken from the song 
of Troilo, 1 which in Chaucer's work has been replaced by the 
paraphrase of Boethius's Metre already mentioned. It may be 
regarded as a more detailed statement of the ideas of the 
Metre, the power and influence of love on humanity being 
emphasized, although the same identification of love with the 
phenomenon of attraction appears. We may end this consider- 
ation of the love deity in the Troilus by noticing the rather re- 
markable similarity between the ideas of Chaucer's Proem and 
those of the first part of the celebrated " Hymn to Venus " of 
the poet Lucretius : 

" Mother of the Aeneadae, darling of men and gods, increase- 
giving Venus, who beneath the gliding signs of heaven fillest 
with thy presence the ship- carry ing sea, the corn-bearing lands, 
since through thee every kind of living things is conceived, rises 
up and beholds the light of the sun. Before thee, goddess, flee 
the winds, the clouds of heaven ; before thee and thy advent ; 
for thee earth manifold in works puts forth sweet-smelling 
flowers ; for thee the levels of the sea do laugh and heaven 
propitiated shines with outspread light. For soon as the vernal 
aspect of day is disclosed, and the birth-favoring breath of 
Favonius unbarred is blowing fresh, first the fowls of the air, O 
lady, shew signs of thee and thy entering in, throughly smitten 
in heart by thy power. Next the wild herds bound over the glad 

1 Filostrato, Hi, st. 74-89. 


pastures and swim the rapid rivers : in such wise each made 
prisoner by thy charm follows thee with desire, whither thou 
goest to lead it on. Yes, throughout seas and mountains and 
sweeping rivers and leafy homes of birds and grassy plains, 
striking fond love into the breasts of all, thou constrainest them 
each after its kind to continue their races with desire." 1 

The Legend of Good Women 

Near the end of the Troilus and Criseyde, in a passage in 
which the author shows that he is profoundly moved by the 
seriousness of the story he has been writing, he beseeches all 
gentle women not to be angry with him on account of Criseyde's 

Ye may hir gilt in othere bokes see ; 
And gladlier I wol wryten, if yow leste, 
Penelopees trouthe and good Alceste. 2 

Ne I say not this al-only for these men, 
But most for wommen that bitraysed be 
Through false folk ; god yeve hem sorwe, amen ! 
That with hir grete wit and subtiltee 
Bitrayse yow ! and this commeveth me 
To speke, and in effect yow alle I preye 
Beth war of men, and herkneth what I seye ! 3 

In view of the facts that in the Legend of Good Women the 
poet writes of the falseness of men towards women, and that, 
had he finished his work, he would not only have written of 
" Penelopees trouthe," 4 but he would have crowned the Legend 

1 De Rerum Natura, I, 1-20, translated by Munro. 

2 Troilus, v, 254. On the significance of this passage in connection with 
the Legend see ten Brink, Studien, p. 120, Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, III, xviii, 
and Lowes, Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., XX, 820. 3 Ibid., 255. 

4 Note the god of Love's words to the poet : 
Thise other ladies sitting here arowe 
Ben in thy balade, if thou canst them knowe . . . 
Have hem now in thy Legende alle in minde, 
I mene of hem that ben in thy knowinge. B-Prol., 11. 554-558. 


with the story of Alceste, " Kalender to any woman that wol 
lover be," 1 in view of all this we may infer that the poet had 
already in mind the writing of the Legend. At the least, a very 
close connection between the two works is indicated. This close- 
ness of connection is made clear by certain other features found 
in the two works. 

One of these features which is very noticeable is the attitude 
which the poet assumes with regard to love. We have already 
seen what this is in the Troilus. He professes to be only a serv- 
ant of lovers. 2 He declares to all lovers that he does not write 
this story out of his own feelings, and says : 

Eek though I speke of love unfelingly, 
No wonder is, for it nothing of newe is ; 
A blind man can nat juggen wel in hewis. 8 

He urges those who understand love to do as they please with 
any words that he, out of reverence to Love, may have added to 
his author's story, 4 for he speaks all his words " under correc- 
cioun" of those that have feeling in love's art. 6 In another place, 
he professes to be the clerk of those who serve Venus, and 
begs her help in writing the joys of lovers. 6 This attitude of 
Chaucer as "an outsider in the affairs of love" which has 
already been noted 7 was consistently maintained by him, 8 and 

1 But now I charge thee, upon thy lyf, 
That in thy Legend thou make of this wyf 
Whan thou hast other smale ymaad before. 

B-Prol. 11. 548-550 ; A-Prol. 11. 538-540. 

2 Troilus, i, 3. 8 Ibid., ii, 3. 4 Ibid., iii, 190. 

6 Ibid., iii, 191. 6 Ibid., iii, 6. 

7 By Mr. Lowes, in his explanation of Chaucer's failure to utilize the open- 
ing stanzas of the Filostrato in his Troilus, Pub. Mod. Lang. Assoc., 1904, p. 622. 

8 Cf . also, 

For al be that I knowe not love in dede, 

Ne wot how that He quyteth folk hir hyre, 

Yet happeth me ful ofte in bokes rede 

Of his miracles and his cruel ire. P. of P., 11. 8-n. 


he assumes it in the Prologue to the Legend. In imposing upon 
him the penance of writing the Legend, Alceste says : 

And thogh thee lyke not a lover be 

Spek wel of love ; this penance yive I thee. 

In all her defense of the poet before the god, she speaks of him 
as one who was, as Chaucer calls himself, 1 the " clerk" of lovers. 

The man hath served yow of his conning 
And forthred wel your lawe in his making. 

And the tone of the poet's own attempted defense of his conduct 
is the same. Again he calls on 

lovers, that can make of sentement 

to help him in praising the daisy aright, and asks their forbear- 
ance if he does not do it as well as they : 

Sin that ye see I do hit in the honour 
Of love, and eek in service of the flour, 
Whom that I serve as I have wit or might. 

The closeness of connection between the Troilus and the 
Legend indicated by this similarity of attitude, is emphasized by 
the spirit which, as an outsider, the poet exhibits. We have 
already noted the almost abject humility which the writer pro- 
fesses to feel at the opening of the Troilus. He is only a servant 
of those who in truth serve the god of Love. His unfitness for 
loving is so great that he does not even dare to pray for help in 
his work ; he is in outer darkness, far from the help of the god. 2 
Much the same humility, and realization of his poor standing 
with the god, is displayed by the poet in the Legend. He reports 
that the god of Love spoke to him : 

For it were better worthy, trewely, 
A werm to comen in my sight than thou. . . . 
My servaunts been alle wyse and honourable. 
Thou art my mortal fo, and me warreyest. 

1 Troilus, iii, 6. 2 Ibid., i, 3. 


He prays God's blessing on Alceste ; 

For ne hadde confort been of hir presence, 
I had be deed, withouten any defence, 
For drede of Loves wordes and his chere. 

Indeed the idea at the basis of the whole Prologue is that the 
poet has sinned against the god and must do penance for it. 

We may note further, as an indication of the close connection 
between the two works, what may perhaps be called a similarity 
of method. We have already seen how Chaucer, in the case of 
the Troilus, evinces a great fondness for using ecclesiastical 
ideas and phraseology. Examples were cited of the classical 
conception of the god of Love ; and a somewhat larger number 
of instances in which the feudal character of the god was shown. 
But the conception of the love divinity, which is by far the most 
prominent, is, as we have seen, the ecclesiastical ; and the same 
preference for the ideas of the church appears, not only in the 
actual account of the love of Troilus and Criseyde, but also in 
other passages, which have nothing to do with this story itself. 1 
Now if we consider the Legend of Good Women as a whole, we 
see a continuation of this method. 

The ecclesiastical figure that describes human beings who 
have suffered and died for love as martyrs to their religion, of 
which Cupid was the divinity, needs only be mentioned. The 
fact that Cupid appears with a halo, as the B-version tells us, 

His gilte heer was corouned with a sonne, 
In-stede of gold, for hevinesse and wighte, 

makes the conception more vivid than usual. 2 The ecclesias- 
tical idea is fundamental in the Legend, and the corresponding 

1 An instance of the latter is the Proem to the first book, a part of which 
has been cited above. 

2 Professor Neilson, who has made a wide study of the Court of Love 
poems, states that this is the only instance of the god's wearing a halo which 
he has found (Neilson, Origins, p. 145). 


conception of the love deity is therefore the prevailing one 
in the Prologue, The god is given his classical equipment of 
wings 1 and fiery darts but, as we have noted, this is not in- 
consistent with the ecclesiastical figure. The references which 
Alcestis makes to envious tattlers and flatterers in the court of 
the god, and her argument that a king or a lord should be just 
to high and low, and especially should " han of pore folk com- 
passioun," 2 reflect the feudal characteristics of the god. But 
clearly the larger conception in the Prologue is the ecclesiastical. 
The charge against the poet is that he was guilty of spreading 
heresy against the religion of the god, in translating the Ro- 
mance of the Rose* and of encouraging schism. 4 The god 
refers to Criseyde's faithlessness as " wickkednesse " 5 and de- 
mands of the poet why he could not just as well have " seyd 
goodnesse of wemen." 6 He swears by " Saint Venus " that 
although the poet has renounced the religion of love, he shall 
repent it. 7 Alcestis pleads that he has furthered the god's 
" lawe " with his poetry, 8 and she asks the god " right of [his] 
grace " not to hurt the poet. Later, when she bids the culprit 
leave off his arguing, she states 

Thou hast thy grace, and hold thee right ther-to. 

She follows this declaration by imposing upon him for his tres- 
pass the penance of spending the greater part of his life 

In making of a glorious Legende 
Of Code Wemen, maidens and wyves 
. That were trewe in loving al hir lyves. 

There is yet one detail, which is a part of this large use by 
Chaucer of ecclesiastical ideas in the Troilus and the Legend, 
and which is significant as regards the connection of the two 

1 A. 142-169. 2 A. 376; B. 390. 3 A. 256; B. 330. 

4 And (thou) makest wyse folk fro me with draw (A. 257 ; B. 331). 
6 A. 209. 6 A. 268-269. 7 A. 313-316; B. 336-340. 8 A. 399. 


poems. Near the end of the Proem to Book I of the Troihis 
Chaucer, after admitting his own unworthiness to be a lover and 
calling for the prayers of various kinds of lovers in behalf of 
their less fortunate brethren, says : 

For so hope I my soule best avaunce, 

To preye for hem that Loves servaunts be, 

And wryte hir wo, and live in charitee, 

And for to have of hem compassioun 

As though I were hir owene brother dere. 1 

The poet, in the spirit of humility which characterizes this whole 
Proem, declares that he hopes to advance the interests of his 
own soul by doing a work which has merit attached to it, and 
this work is to write the woes of Love's servants. Of course, 
the statement is made primarily with reference to the Troilus, 
which he is just beginning. But when we remember that the 
writing of a saint's life was an act of peculiar merit, and when 
we consider that that is precisely what he is doing in the Legend, 
except that he is writing of Cupid's saints, the connection be- 
tween the statement and the Legend seems inevitable ; so clear 
is it that one might almost feel confident that the statement 
suggested to the poet the plan of the Legend itself. 

We have noted in the preceding pages instances in which 
Church ideas were used for secular purposes, particularly in 
the love literature. The Concile de Remiremont affords an 
early example of this. 2 In Li Fab lei the feature of the tomb, 
over which the birds were singing for the soul of the lover 
buried there, is another case in point, as is the funeral of the 
young man who had died in the service of Love in Venus la 
Deesse. Examples have also been cited from Andreas Capel- 
lanus, in his use of the Paradise and Purgatory of lovers ; and 
traces of the use of ecclesiastical ideas were pointed out in the 
Romance of the Rose. Perhaps the most elaborate employment 

1 Troilus, i, 7, 8. 2 See p. 18, above. 


of such ideas for setting forth a story of love is to be found in 
La Messe des Oiseaus, written by Jean de Conde. 1 This story 
relates the author's dream, in which he saw in a beautiful 
meadow a court presided over by Venus, attended by numerous 
birds. Before proceeding to the work of administering justice, 
she orders the nightingale to sing mass. Here the feudal char- 
acter of the story changes to the ecclesiastical. The service 
which is sung by the birds is an elaborate parody of the service 
of the Mass as celebrated by the Church. The Confession, the 
Introit, the Litany, the Gloria, the Collect, the Epistle, the 
Alleluia, the Gospels, the Creed, the Offertory, all follow in 
due order. A sermon on the virtues of Obedience, Patience, 
Loyalty, and Hope in lovers is delivered by the parrot, after 
which absolution is granted. The Sanctus is sung ; the Pater- 
noster and the Agnus Dei follow, and the service in which the 
bird congregation have participated closes with the Collect, the 
Ite miss a est, and the Benediction. After the service the poet 
proceeds with the story of the feast of lovers, followed by an 
account of the judgment rendered by the goddess in the com- 
plaint made by the white canonesses against the gray nuns. 

Other less elaborate uses of the ecclesiastical phraseology 
for the language of love could be pointed out. 2 Those here 
noted are sufficient to show that in equating the worship of 
God with the worship of Love Chaucer was following an old 
literary tradition. Such a process of equating would find many 
different manners of expression. The particular form which 
the poet here uses we may assume is original with him, and 
possibly it grows out of the passage in the Proem to Book I 
of the Troilus. 

1 Dits et Contes, ed. A. Scheler, Brussels, 1866, III, i66ff. 

2 For a discussion of this feature of the love literature of the period, see 
Neilson, Origins, pp. 220-226. It may be said that no other author handled 
these ideas so cleverly or in so masterly a fashion as Chaucer, with whom the 
device was a great favorite. 


Notwithstanding the fact that Chaucer was thus following in 
the Legend a well-defined plan based on the mediaeval ecclesi- 
astical ideas, we are struck at once with what appears to be the 
unsuitableness of some of the individual legends to the plan 
adopted. This may possibly be explained by conjecturing that 
Chaucer did not write all the legends with such a series in 
mind, but that some of them were written before he conceived 
the general plan, and were utilized by him afterward. At the 
same time, even if this conjecture be correct, the Legend, as we 
have it, is as the poet left it, and the separate stories as they 
stand he regarded as suitable for 

a glorious Legende 
Of Code Wommen. 

The difficulty in understanding Chaucer's use of these stories 
is, I believe, apparent rather than real. At any rate, it is easy 
to see how the poet's mind was working. The unfitness of cer- 
tain of the women for the Legend appears the greater to us, 
because we do not easily forget our habitual way of regarding 
them, and do not, therefore, look at them as Chaucer wished us 
to do in this particular poem. For it is clear that the poet has 
adopted a definite mode of procedure in treating the stories ; 
and this is nowhere more evident than in the very one of all the 
legends which seems to us the least adapted to his purpose, the 
story of Cleopatra. 

Certainly, as we know her history, Cleopatra is a strange ex- 
ample of those that were true in loving all their lives. Are we 
to infer that the poet did not know the true account of her life, 
and the scenes which he here describes ? He himself assures 
us that the tale as he tells it is " storial truth, hit is no fable." 
Or shall we say that his sources misled him, or that he only 
vaguely remembered what he had read ? 1 Thus far scholars have 

1 As Professor Lounsbury intimates, Studies, II, 186. 


found no sources which will account for the version of the story 
which Chaucer gives. Or yet again, shall we say that the poet 
took liberties with the facts in order to meet the exigencies of his 
Legend, a license which is allowable in any writer of fiction ? 
So long as the truth is not known, the reader is free to choose 
whichever of these alternatives pleases him best ; and the last 
of the three will be, perhaps, the easiest to accept. For it is clear 
that, as we have the story, the poet has intended to make* and 
has succeeded in making, the Egyptian queen a martyr to her 
love. As he says : 

And she hir deeth receyveth, with good chere, 
For love of Antony, that was hir so dere. 

Professor Lounsbury remarks on this point, 1 " Even in the story 
as told by Chaucer, Antony is not only the more in earnest of 
the two, he is much more of a martyr." I cannot at all agree 
with this statement. To me Cleopatra cuts the better figure 
throughout. It should be remembered that to tell the story of 
women who were true in love was only part of the duty imposed 
upon the poet by the good Alceste; he must also 
telle of false men that hem bitrayen ; 

and although he recognizes the worth of Antony as a lover, his 
" persone," " gentilesse," " discrecioun," and " hardinesse," the 
effort to make the hero appear at a disadvantage, however slight, 
as a lover, is quite as apparent as the desire to exalt the heroine. 
He very carefully inserts near the beginning the detail that 
Antony had already been false in love : 

And over al this, the suster of Cesar, 
He lafte hir falsly, er that she was war, 
And wolde algates han another wyf. 

The insertion of this detail is especially significant, if we as- 
sume that the poet was familiar with the history of Antony's and 


1 Studies, II, 185. 


Cleopatra's lives. To include this point from Antony's life, and 
to omit the unsavory love experiences of his heroine previous 
to her affair with Antony, must have been part of a well- 
defined purpose of the poet to make the lady appear in the 
better light. 

Furthermore, the death of Antony is not at all that of a 
martyr to love. The cause of his suicide, as Chaucer tells us, 
was despair at the thought of having lost his " worshipe " in the 
day's fight. Here again if Chaucer really knew the facts of 
history in the case of the battle here described, his purpose in 
suppressing the detail of Antony's flight becomes clear. To 
give up honor and everything for love, as Antony did, would 
be the part of a martyr. It seems clear that in omitting the 
detail, if he really knew it, Chaucer has intended to reserve this 
great honor of sacrificing all for love to his heroine. At any rate, 
as he tells the story, this is reserved for her ; and in so doing, 
the poet makes it stand out as boldly as he can. Of the one 
hundred and twenty-six lines contained in this Legend, forty- 
one that is, almost one third are devoted to the death of the 
love-stricken queen. Nor do we find in the account of the 
queen's sacrifice anything suggestive of lightness or frivolity. 
Furthermore, if we allow ourselves to forget the true character 
of the queen which we learn from history, it is possible for us to 
feel the pathos of the tale as Chaucer tells it, particularly of 
that part in which Cleopatra addresses her lover, while preparing 
for d^eath. 

The introduction to this scene is noteworthy, when considered 
in relation to the general plan of the Legend. The poet says : 
11 Ye men, who are always falsely swearing that you shall die, if 
your ladies be angry, listen and I will tell you of a woman who 
really did what you pretend to do." Both in this and in the 
humorous lines with which he concludes his story the poet 
keeps before us his purpose in the Legend, to exalt the 


constancy of women in love and to deprecate the falseness and 
fickleness of men. 

In view of these facts, I do not see how we can say with Pro- 
fessor Lounsbury that in Chaucer's tale Antony is more of a 
martyr and more in earnest than Cleopatra ; much less can we 
say with a recent writer that the story as Chaucer tells it is 
ironical, a travesty in which the poet satirizes the inconstancy 
of women. 1 

The conjecture that Chaucer deliberately changed the appear- 
ance of the historical facts in the Cleopatra will seem to do less 
violence to the truth when we consider that he has consistently 
manipulated his sources to suit the needs of his Legend in the 
accounts of the other women. 2 Not all of them, however, demand 
that such liberties be taken as in the Cleopatra. For example, 
in the classic story of Pyramus and Thisbe, Chaucer found ma- 
terial particularly well suited to his purposes. The object ever 
to be kept before him was to tell of women who were true in 
loving all their lives, and who, if need were, willingly and gladly 
suffered death on account of their love. In Thisbe he found 
just such a woman, and her story was already made for him in 
the works of his favorite author Ovid. Accordingly we have in 
Chaucer's version, on the whole, a faithful reproduction of the 
Latin narrative. Yet there are some changes, the purpose of 
which is unmistakably to make the tale fit in better with the plan 
of the Legend. Note, for example, the interpolations which our 
poet makes in Ovid's version. The words 

Callida per tenebras . . . Thisbe 
Egreditur fallitque suos, 3 

1 H. C. Goddard, "Chaucer's Legend of Good Women," Journal of English 
Philology, VII, 87 ff., and VIII, 47 ff. See also Professor Lowes's reply in the 
same periodical, VIII, 513 ff. 

2 For the sources of the legends see Skeat, Works, III, xxxiv-xl ; Bech, 
Anglia, V, 313-382. 

3 Metamorphoses, iv, 93-94. 


Chaucer interprets thus : 

For alle her f riendes for to save her trouthe 
She hath forsake. 

And then he remarks : 

and that is routhe 

That ever woman wolde be so trewe 
To trusten man, but she the bet him knewe ! 

The object of this observation is, of course, to keep before the 
mind of the reader the proposition at the basis of the Legend: 
that women are for the most part true in love ; that they will 
usually go to greater lengths than men to remain true ; and that 
many will suffer death rather than be untrue. 

To emphasize this thought, Chaucer has made one other very 
noticeable change in the Latin poem. This is the omission of 
all reference to the mulberry tree, which has a rather prominent 
place in Ovid's account. In omitting this, he has not only greatly 
improved the story as a story, but he has got rid of material which 
for his purpose is irrelevant. Accordingly, where in the Latin 
Thisbe addresses the tree, Chaucer has the opportunity to make 
her speak these words : 

And rightwis god to every lover sende, 
That loveth trewely, more prosperitee 
Than ever hadde Piramus and Thisbe ! 
And lat no gentil woman her assure 
To putten her in swich an aventure. 
But god forbede but a woman can 
Been as trewe and loving as a man ! 
And, for my part, I shal anoon it kythe ; 

whereupon she stabs herself. 

The story of Pyramus and Thisbe offers some difficulty, 
however, happy illustration of woman's loyalty as it is. For, as 
we have noted several times already, part of the poet's purpose 
in the Legend was to show man's unfaithfulness in love ; yet, 


Pyramus is quite as true as Thisbe herself. Chaucer slyly 
apologizes for having told the tale at all : 

Of trewe men I finde but fewe mo 
In alle my bokes, save this Piramus, 
And therfor have I spoken of him thus. 
For hit is deyntee to us men to finde 
A man that can in love be trewe and kinde. 
Heer may ye seen, what lover so he be, 
A woman dar and can as wel as he. 

Of course this apology in reality strengthens the poet's case ; for 
here, as usual, the exception proves the rule. 

Yet it is quite clear that Chaucer is not content with such 
proof. We have already seen, in the legend of Cleopatra, how 
the heroine was allowed the centre of the stage ; the same is 
true in the account of Pyramus and Thisbe. Pyramus is given 
enough prominence to make perfectly clear the part he enacted 
in this tragedy of love. Yet, as the story is here told, what is 
said of the hero is evidently designed to bring into greater relief 
the part played by Thisbe. This favor shown the heroine by the 
poet is all the more noticeable when the version is compared with 
Ovid's ; for in the latter greater prominence is given to neither 
character; it is the unusual love of the two, and the unhappy 
end to which their love brought them, which interests the 
Latin poet, and which he makes the theme of his story. 

The story of Dido furnishes Chaucer with material really 
better suited to his purpose than the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. 
Dido is an actual example of a woman who sacrificed all for love ; 
Aeneas, Chaucer uses as an example of the false lover. It is 
in the latter respect that the poet departs from his source ; for 
it is very clear that Virgil exonerates Aeneas from any blame 
for his treachery to the queen, and considers the command of 
Mercury as sufficient excuse for his forsaking her. As the hero 
of the epic, Aeneas is made to appear in the most favorable 


light. Not so in the version of Chaucer, who gives all his sym- 
pathy to the queen, and makes the Trojan maliciously false. 

A successful carrying out of the purpose in the individual 
legends requires a strongly pathetic element in them. Accord- 
ingly, as we have seen in the case of the Cleopatra and Tkisbe, 
the poet spares no pains to make them effective in this respect. 
The same is true of the Dido. One means of gaining this 
effect is a close attention to details in the earlier part of the 
story. Care is taken to show the depths to which Fate had re- 
duced the hero, and the magnificence to which he was raised 
by the generosity of the queen. 

This Eneas is come to Paradys 

Out of the swolow of helle, and thus in joye 

Remembreth him of his estat in Troye. 

Then follows a long list of the presents the queen had 
made Aeneas. All this helps to emphasize the treachery of 
the Trojan, and to increase the pathos of the latter part of 
the tale. 

Another means the poet employs for the purpose of pathos 
is the apostrophe to women who trust themselves to men. 

O sely womman, ful of innocence, 
Ful of pitee, of trouthe, and conscience, 
What maketh yow to men to trusten so ? 
Have ye swich routhe upon hir feined wo, 
And han swiche olde ensamples yow beforn ? 
See ye nat alle, how they been for-sworn ? 
Wher see ye oon, that he ne hath laft his leef, 
Or been unkinde, or doon hir som mischeef, 
Or pilled her, or bosted of his dede ? 

This utterance, while it is, I believe, the sincere expression of 
the poet's feelings, as were the similar utterances in the House 
of Fame version, has its artistic value, and plays its part in 
heightening the pathetic effect of the tale. 


Yet another means employed for this purpose is the speech 
of Dido near the end. This speech, as was the case in the House 
of Fame, is different in spirit from Virgil's. In the Latin, the 
queen calls down curses upon the departing Aeneas : 

I, sequere Italiam ventis, pete regna per undas. 
Spero equidem mediis, si quid pia numina possunt, 
Supplicia hausurum scopulis et nomine Dido 
Saepe vocaturum. Sequar atris ignibus absens 
Et, cum frigida mors anima seduxerit artus, 
Omnibus umbra locis adero. Dabis, improbe, poenas. 
Audiam et haec manis veniet mihi fama sub imos. 1 

In Chaucer's poem, anything harsh is omitted from the queen's 
speech, and only her tender and pathetic supplications are given. 
Lastly, the poet has with fine instinct seized upon the words 
of Ovid to close his story : 

Sic ubi fata vocant, udis abiectus in herbis 

Ad vada Maeandri concinit albus olor ; 

Nee quia te nostra sperem prece posse moveri, 

Adloquor (adverso movimus ista deo), 

Sed merita et famam corpusque animumque pudicum 

Cum male perdiderim, perdere verba levest. 

Certus es ire tamen miseramque relinquere Didon, 

Atque idem venti vela fidemque f erent ? 2 

The pathos of these lines in the original is unmistakable ; as 
rendered by Chaucer, they add distinctly to the pathetic effect 
of his poem. 

In the legend of Hypsipyle and Medea, Chaucer is con- 
cerned more with making known the treachery of Jason than 
with showing the unhappy- plight of the two women. True to 
his purpose, he devotes the greater part of his poem to the 
lover, painting him as all that a lover should be, except for 
want of truth and loyalty, and showing what a villain he was 
"with feyning and with every sotil dede." He prefaces his 

1 Aeneid, iv, 381-387. 2 Heroides, vii, 3-10. 


narrative with one of those expressions, frequent in the legends, 
in which he laments the faithlessness of men. After his chal- 
lenge to the " rote of false lovers, duk Jasoun," and his threat 
to publish his treachery, he remarks : 

But certes, hit is bothe routhe and wo 
That love with false loveres 'werketh so ; 
For they shul have wel better love and chere 
Than he that hath aboght his love ful dere, 
Or had in armes many a blody box. 
For ever as tendre a capoun et the fox, 
Thogh he be fals and hath the foul betrayed, 
As shal the good-man that ther-f or hath payed ; 
Al have he to the capoun skille and right, 
The false fox wol have his part at night. 

This is in the same spirit as the similar utterances noted from 
time to time in the House of Fame and in the other parts of the 
Legend. With this introduction, Chaucer proceeds to the tale, 
following in the main the version as Guido delle Colonne gives 
it in the first book of the Historia Trojana^ but omitting all of 
Guide's account that is irrelevant to the love story, or that is 
not necessary for a swift presentation of the events in which 
the love story is set. 

Chaucer does not tarry long over the account of Hypsipyle, 
which is hardly more than an introduction to the tale of Medea. 
It is in the latter that the poet's most interesting and significant 
departures from Guide's narrative are to be seen. For example, 
the long description of Medea's powers of necromancy, obviously 
unsuited to a portrayal of a fond and trusting maiden, he omits, 
as he does the account of how the heroine takes especial pains 
to adorn herself for the feast given to Jason, although she was 
naturally very fair. This action of Medea's is the signal for 

1 For the references to Guido it proved convenient to use a MS. copy of 
the Strassburg edition of 1494, made by Mr. G. B. Weston in Dresden in 1897 
and now in the Harvard University Library. 


Guide to launch out into a long diatribe against woman's incon- 
stancy and lustful seeking after men, with special application of 
his remarks to Medea. He tells how, as she sits at the feast 
between her father and Jason, she is so overcome with love- 
longing that she cannot eat nor drink : " Est enim sibi tune 
cibus et potus Jasonis dulcis aspectus, quern totum clausum 
gestat in corde, et in cuius amore libidinis repletus est sto- 
machus saturatus." 

It is in this part of Guide's story that Chaucer sees fit to 
make another very interesting change. Guido, in his scathing 
remarks on woman, declares : " Scimus enim mulieris animum 
semper virum appetere, sicut appetit materia semper formam, et 
turpe bonum. O utinam materia transiens semel in formam 
posset dici suo contenta formato. Sed sicut ad formam de 
forma procedere materiam notum est, sic mulieris concupiscentia 
dissoluta procedere de viro ad virum utique esse creditur sine 
fine, cum sit quedam profunditas sine fundo, nisi forte pudoris 
labes aliqua abstinentia laudanda concluserit sub terminis hon- 
estatis." These ideas Chaucer is pleased to use as follows : 

As matere appetyteth forme alwey, 
And from forme into forme hit passen may, 
Or as a welle that were botomless, 
Right so can fals Jasoun have no pees. 
For, to desyren, through his appetyt, 
To doon with gentil wommen his delyt, 
This is his lust and his felicitee. 1 

The manner in which Chaucer has here applied to Jason in 
particular Guido's words directed against women in general, 
illustrates his whole treatment of the story as told by Guido. 
For, according to the latter, the entire disgrace in this affair of 
Jason and Medea attaches to Medea. Chaucer not only paints 

1 The connection between the first two lines of this passage and Guido's 
words has already been noted by Bech, Anglia, V, 329-330. 


the man as black as possible, but he dwells upon those qualities 
in him which were likely to make him attractive to the feminine 

Now was Jaoun a semely man withalle, 
And lyk a lord, and had a greet renoun, 
And of his loke as real as leoun, 
And goodly of his speche, and famulere, 
And coude of love al craft and art plenere 
Withoute boke, with everich observaunce. 

The impression the poet wishes to make is that such a man no 
woman could resist ; hence he says, 

And, as fortune oghte a foul meschaunce, 
She wex enamoured upon this man. 

On the other hand, in Guido all the advances come from Medea. 
The pathetic element in neither the Hypsipyle nor the Medea 
is as large as in the other legends already considered ; yet there 
are in both pathetic passages which are very effective. In the 
former, for instance, there is the letter which Hypsipyle sent 
to Jason ; for the substance of this the poet is indebted, of 
course, to Ovid's sixth Epistle. There is something very touch- 
ing, too, in the simple statement with which the story ends : 

And trew to Jason was she al her lyf, 
And ever kepte her chast, as for his wyf ; 
Ne never had she joye at her herte, 
But dyed, for his love, of sorwes smerte. 

In the Medea a fine effect is gained by using the truly pathetic 

lines of Ovid, 

Cur mihi plus aequo flavi placuere capilli 
Et decor et linguae gratia ficta tuae ? 

and Chaucer has made the original still more moving by his fine 

translation : ,, T1 , , , 

Why lyked me thy yelow heer to see 

More then the boundes of myn honestee, 
Why lyked me thy youthe and thy fairnesse, 
And of thy tonge the infinit graciousnesse ? 


In the legend of Lucretia we have a tale of a somewhat 
different nature from those already considered ; different in 
that it does not deal with love at all. But it fits well enough into 
the general plan. In the Prologue to the Legend, the petulant 
god had blamed the poet for not telling in his writings, instead 
of the stories of Criseyde and faithless women, the stories of 
those heathen women who were glad to suffer tortures and even 
death, rather than lose their fair name and be untrue. Lucretia 
was such a woman ; and we find her mentioned in the Balade 
which included the names of women noted for their faithfulness. 
The poet's purpose in telling of her is, as he says at the beginning, 

to preise and drawen to memorie 
The verray wyf , the verray trewe Lucresse. 

And at the end he informs us, 

I telle hit, for she was of love so trewe, 
Ne in her wille she chaunged for no newe. 

But this latter, if we consider the story alone, is a bit far- 
fetched, and Chaucer's real application of the tale is rather to 
be found in the lines following : 

And for the stable herte, sad and kinde, 
That these women men may alday finde ; . . . 
And as of men, loketh which tirannye 
They doon alday ; assay hem who so liste, 
The trewest is ful brotel for to triste. 

That is, using Lucretia as a particular example, he places her 
faithfulness over against the fickleness and falseness of men in 

Of 'the poet's manner of treating his sources in carrying out 
his purpose, there is little to say. He professes to follow Ovid 
and Livy ; in reality, he adheres closely to Ovid's account, 1 and 
finds it necessary to depart very little from the Latin version. 
In accordance with his usual practice, however, he introduces 

1 Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, iii, 330. 


some observations of his own, which serve to make the story 
more suitable to the Legend. To emphasize his purpose, he 
relates how Lucretia fainted for fear of shame and death ; and 
then he adds the apostrophe to Tarquin : 

Tarquinius, that art a kinges eyr, 
And sholdest, as by linage and by right, 
Boon as a lord and as a verray knight, 
Why hastow doon dispyt to chivalrye ? 
Why hastow doon this lady vilanye? 
Alas ! of thee this was a vileins dede. 

These lines, which " breathe the spirit of chivalry," 1 are doubt- 
less, as others already noted, to be taken as the sincere senti- 
ment of the poet himself. One characteristic touch in the story 
is interesting to note. Ovid in telling of Lucretia's discretion, 
even after stabbing herself, says : 

" Tune quoque, iam moriens, ne non procumbat honeste, 
Respicit. Haec etiam cura cadentis erat. 2 

Chaucer makes the matter more concrete in the lines : 

And as she fel adoun, she caste her look, 
And of her clothes yit she hede took ; 
For in her falling yit she hadde care 
Lest that her feet or swiche thing lay bare ; 
So wel she loved clennesse and eek trouthe. 

Another observation which the poet volunteers is found in 

Ne never was ther king in Rome toun 
Sin thilke day ; and she was holden there 
A seint, and ever her day y-halwed dere 
As in hir lawe. 

Professor Skeat remarks on this : " This canonization of Lu- 
cretia is strikingly mediaeval. It was evidently suggested by 
the fact that Ovid gives her story under a particular date, so 

1 Skeat, Oxford Chaucer, iii, 333. 2 Ovid, Fasti, ii, 11. 833-834. 


that she seemed to have her own day, like a saint." The in- 
teresting feature of Chaucer's remark, from the point of view 
of the present study, is the manner in which it fits in with the 
use of the religious convention in the Legend as a whole. 

Of the pathos of the tale, little need be said. In Ovid's 
version, the story throughout is pathetically told. Chaucer's 
rendering, though itself not lacking, certainly adds nothing to 
the Latin in this respect. 

It seems superfluous even to consider Chaucer's purpose in 
the Ariadne. He himself tells us that he writes 

to clepe agein unto memorie 
Of Theseus the grete untrouthe of love. 

With this purpose in view, he swiftly narrates the events up 
to the story of Theseus and Ariadne in such a manner as to. 
make Theseus's treachery as black and Ariadne's plight as 
pathetic as possible. The part played by the heroine in rescu- 
ing Theseus is therefore given prominence. In connection with 
this, the poet's words are interesting : 

Wei maystow wepe, O woful Theseus, 
That art a kinges sone, and dampned thus. 
Me thinketh this, that thou were depe y-holde 
To whom that saved thee fro cares colde ! 
And now, if any woman helpe thee, 
Wei oughtestow her servant for to be, 
And been her trewe lover yeer by yere ! 

These words, taken in connection with Theseus's false love- 
making further on, greatly increase the irony of the situation. 

In the latter part of the story, Chaucer chooses such incidents 
from Ovid's tenth Epistle as will heighten the pathetic effect. 
The desertion of the sleeping heroine, her groping in the bed, 
her walking barefoot on the sands, her display of the kerchief 
on the pole, her swoon, her kissing the footprints of the treach- 
erous lover, and lastly her words to the bed, which formerly 


held two lovers, but which now has only one, all these arouse 
our sympathy. Throughout all, the poet never lets us forget 
the baseness of the betrayer. 

Hadde he nat sinne, that her thus begylde? 
he asks ; and again he remarks : 

Me list no more to speke of him, parde ; 
Thise false lovers, poison be hir bane ! 
But I wol turne again to Adriane. . . . 
Alias ! for thee my herte hath now pite ! 

His plan here again is what we have seen it to be in the pre- 
ceding legends : to engage our sympathies for the woman, and 
to make the* man appear in as bad a light as possible. 

If the tale of Lucretia was. a little out of the poet's province 
in writing the Legend, the Philomela was still more so. This 
is no story of love ; nor does the lady, as did Lucretia, show 
any nobility of action as a result of her shame. It is simply the 
account of man's baseness in seeking the gratification of his sen- 
sual nature. It really lies entirely outside the scope of Chaucer's 
plan in the Legend. He undoubtedly feels this ; for the con- 
clusion is forced and far-fetched : 

Ye may be war of men, yif that yow liste. 
For al be that he wol nat, for his shame, 
Doon so as Tereus, to lese his name, 
Ne serve yow as a mordrour or a knave, 
Ful litel whyle shul ye trewe him have, 
That wol I seyn, al were he now my brother, 
But hit so be that he may have non other. 

The tone of this is indicative of the poet's purpose : to paint 
the blackness of Tereus's deed. To this purpose he adheres 
strictly. The first sixteen lines of the poem are a denunciation 
of Tereus ; and at times, the poet stops in the narrative to 
express his abhorrence of the villain ; for example, in the line : 
For I am wery of him for to telle. 


Contrary to his usual practice in the legends, Chaucer de- 
votes but little space, comparatively, to his heroine. The effort 
on his part to heighten the pathetic effect of the tale by dwell- 
ing on the woman's situation is far less conspicuous than in the 
legends so far considered. Indeed, the pathos attaching to 
Progne's sorrow is almost as strong as that of Philomela's plight. 

Chaucer, in following his author Ovid, 1 succeeds in telling an 
interesting and effective story. But considered in its relation to 
the general purpose of the Legend, the tale must, I think, be 
accounted one of the least appropriate of all. 

In the last two stories of the series the poet has made a 
happier choice. The Phyllis is of the same kind as several 
other stories in the Legend: the Dido, the Hypsipyle and 
Medea, the Ariadne, in all of which the lover gains his 
will by a promise of marriage, and then deserts the trusting 
woman. Little need be said of the Phyllis. The method of 
treatment is the same as that we have noticed in connection 
with the poems just mentioned : the actions of the lover are 
made to appear more despicable because of the generosity of 
the heroine in raising him from the depths of misfortune to a 
position in which he is prosperous and happy. The sorrow 
of the woman is made more conspicuous by the addition of lyric 
expressions (mostly taken from Ovid) in which she laments her 
sad plight, and implores the pity of the false lover. 

In the Hypermnestra we have a tale of wifely devotion, which 
fits in well, as such, with the scheme of the Legend. It is diffi- 
cult to see what the poet can say against the husband in this 
case. Chaucer has left the poem unfinished, but he has given 
us a hint of his feelings toward Lino, in the lines : 

Alias ! Lino ! why art thou so unkinde ? 

Why ne haddest thou remembered in thy minde 

To taken her, and lad her forth with thee ? 

1 Metamorphoses, vi, 424-605. 


In both the Phyllis and Hypermnestra the poet has succeeded 
in treating the heroines with genuine pathos ; in them, as usual, 
he has adhered closely to Ovid's Epistles. 1 

The foregoing considerations show with sufficient clearness, 
I think, that in handling the tales which make up the indi- 
vidual legends, Chaucer was following a definite plan, which 
was a part of the larger plan of the Legend as a whole. This 
plan demanded a similar treatment for each of the separate 
stories ; a treatment in which the loyalty of woman would be 
exalted and the falsity of men would be decried. Anything in 
his sources which would in any way emphasize either of these 
features, the poet would be careful to utilize. With equal care 
he would avoid any details which would tend to lessen this im- 
pression of the woman's faithfulness and of the man's disloyalty. 
This plan the poet studiously adhered to throughout ; 2 and 
doubtless the sameness of treatment which it involved made 
the whole task wearisome and led to the abandonment of the 

Certainly Chaucer was in earnest in what he wrote, as far as 
he went. At some time or other in his poetic career, the plan 
of telling stories of women who were faithful in love doubtless 
appealed to him. But at the time when the poem was put in 
the form in which we have it, the love theme could have had 
but little attraction for him. He had reached the high-water 
mark in his treatment of love in Troilus. After such a superb 
effort, anything in the nature of the Legend must have seemed 
tame. Besides, the lure of a larger representation of life was 
before him, in the already projected plan of the Canterbury 
Tales. When the poet laid aside the Legend, he gave up for 
good and all the handling of love in and for itself. Wherever 

1 For the Phyllis, Heroides, ii ; for the Hypermnestra, Heroides, xiv. 

2 Except, of course, in the Pyramus and Thisbe, and then he apologizes 
for having to speak of the hero as he does. 


the theme is found in the Canterbury Tales it is subservient to 
some other purpose, and love appears only as an aspect of the 
larger life with which the Tales deal. 


In the Canterbury Tales, two types of love are prominent. 
One of these, the courtly love of the higher classes, we have 
seen to be abundantly illustrated in Chaucer's earlier works. The 
other type is found in those tales in which Chaucer in his mas- 
terly fashion portrays the life of the lower classes the love of 
fat fabliaux. This is solely and entirely carnal in its nature. 
We have seen that the courtly love itself was often sensual ; but 
along with the sensualism, there was found a refinement and 
often a nobility of sentiment which went far toward lessening 
the repulsive effect of the baser element. The love of the fabliaux, 
on the other hand, is all grossness without any of the refinement. 

With this lower type of love we shall not deal here. We shall 
take the attitude, for this study, that the courtly classes of the 
poet's own time would have assumed, that, although the 
" hende Nicholas," January and May, and that splendid animal, 
the Wyf of Bath, dignified their passion with the name of love, 
they were incapable of experiencing real love, or even of com- 
prehending its nature. We shall confine our discussion to what 
would have been deemed love by those people for whom Chaucer 
wrote ; that is, in accordance with the plan followed so far, we 
shall direct our attention to the courtly love element in the 
Canterbury Tales. 

The Prologue 

Of the company of pilgrims pictured for us in the Prologue, 
two are of especial interest to us in the present study ; these 
are the Knight and his son the Squire, 

A lovyere and a lusty bachelere. 


Of the Knight it is said that he was worthy, wise, meek, and 
that he loved, 

Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye. 

These are the qualities which we have found to be requisite in 
the model courtly lover back to the time of Andreas Capellanus. 
The characteristics, indeed, of the knight and the lover in 
mediaeval times were identical, since every knight was supposed, 
when young, to be in love; and since the great majority of 
lovers were knights. 

The description of the Squire agrees well with our ideas of 
lovers as derived from the courtly literature. He is said to be 
courteous and humble. His love was so "hot" that it kept him 
awake at night. He had travelled far on military expeditions 
and had conducted himself well, in the hope of standing high 
in his lady's favor. He was accomplished in riding, song-making, 
writing, drawing, jousting, and dancing. He was merry all the 
day with his singing and his " fluting." 

He was as fresh as is the month of May, 

and the garments he wore were a symbol of the freshness of his 

It is noticeable that the Squire meets all the requirements 
with regard to character, behavior, dress, and accomplishments, 
which the god put before his lover in the Romance of the Rose. 
As for his military expeditions, and his desire to stand well with 
his lady, this, as we have seen in the preceding part of this study, 
is in accord with ideas commonly held, that the young lover 
must perform deeds of prowess, so that his fame may come to 
his lady's ears, if he wishes to gain her favor. 

Two other characters of the Prologue are brought into rela- 
tion with this study by what the poet says of them ; these, 
strangely enough, are the Prioress and the Monk. The Prioress 
wore a brooch on which was written the motto, Amor vincit 


omnia. Similarly, the Monk wore a pin, the larger end of which 
was fashioned like a love-knot. Of course, neither of these char- 
acters was a lover ; but the devices which they wore show the 
prevalence of love ideas at this time. " Chaucer's Prioress and 
Monk, whose lives were devoted to religious reflection and the 
most serious engagements, and while they are actually travelling 
on a pilgrimage to visit the shrine of a sainted martyr, openly 
avow the universal influence of love. They exhibit on their 
apparel badges entirely inconsistent with their profession, but 
easily accountable for from these principles. The Prioress wears 
a bracelet on which is inscribed, with a crowned A, Amor vincit 
omnia. The Monk ties his hood with a true lover's knot." l 

The Knight's Tale 

It seems hardly necessary, after showing the large use, by 
Chaucer, of conventional ideas in his erotic work, to point out 
such features in the Knight's Tale. Yet, following our usual 
plan, we may note such employment of the stock ideas of love 
literature as the poet has here made. In so doing, we shall see 
once more that Chaucer in his love stories never tried to avoid 
the conventional ideas. On the contrary, he used them freely ; 
but, as a poet of genius, he managed them and never allowed 
them to manage him. 

Love is conceived as a god whose power is absolute. No- 
where may a better expression of the courtly idea of the god of 
Love be found than in the words of Theseus : 

The god of love, a ! benedicite, 

How mighty and how great a lord is he ! 

Ayeins his might ther gayneth none obstacles, 

He may be cleped a god for his miracles ; 

For he can maken at his owne gyse 

Of everich herte, as that him list devyse. 

1 Warton, History of English Poetry, London, 1871, III, 3. 


He has shown his power on Palamon and Arcite, for he has, 
Theseus says, maugree hir eyen two 

Y-broght hem hider bothe for to dye ! . . . 
Thus hath hir lord, the god of love, y-payed 
Hir wages and hir fees for hir servyse ! 

Theseus himself was a servant of the god and had been " caught 
ofte in his las." 

Although the god appears often, Venus is prominent as a love 
deity. In this capacity, she requires absolute devotion ; nothing 
is of avail against her might : 

wisdom ne richesse, 

Beautee ne sleighte, strengthe, ne hardinesse, 
Ne may with Venus holde champartye ; 
For as hir list the world than may she gye. 

References to Cupid with his arrows appear in the poem. 
Arcite complains : 

And over al this, to sleen me utterly, 
Love hath his fyry dart so brenningly 
Y-stiked thurgh my trewe careful herte, 
That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte. 

In the description of the Temple of Venus, too, Cupid is pictured 
as an attendant of Venus : 

Biforn hir stood hir sone Cupido, 

Upon his shuldres winges hadde he two ; 

And blind he was, as it is ofte sene ; 

A bowe he bar and arwes brighte and kene. 

In fact, in this Temple, everything incidental to the passion of 
love is pictured on the walls. 

Venus in her capacity as the goddess of carnal love is referred 
to in the words spoken by Palamon while praying in the Temple : 

I shal for evermore, 

Emforth my might, thy trewe servant be, 
And holden werre alwey with chastitee. 


The lady in the Knight's Tale has the characteristics, physical 
and spiritual, common to ladies in the courtly poetry. Her posi- 
tion with regard to her lovers is the usual one of superiority. 
Arcite determines to return to Athens, 

To see my lady that I love and serve. 

Elsewhere he declares : 

Only the sighte of hir, whom that I serve, 
Though that I never hir grace may deserve, 
Wolde han suffised right y-nough for me. 

Similarly, Palamon is a servant of Emilia. Theseus says of him, 
addressing Emilia : 

That gentil Palamon, your owne knight, 
That serveth yow with wille, herte, and might, 
And ever hath doon, sin that ye first him knewe, 
... ye shul, of your grace, upon him rewe, 
And taken him for housbonde and for lord. 

The attitude of the lady toward the lovers is the usual one of 
indifference ; at least, it seems to be that to the lovers themselves. 
Arcite, in praying to Mars, says of Emilia : 

For she, that dooth me al this wo endure, 
Ne reccheth never wher I sinke or flete. 
And wel I woot, er she me mercy hete, 
I moot with strengthe winne hir ... 

The lovers themselves are portrayed in accordance with the 
conventional ideas. They suffer torments and woe, and show all 
the customary symptoms. The changes in mood caused in Arcite 
by his love are thus described : 

Whan that Arcite had . . . 

. . . songen al the roundel lustily, 

Into a studie he fil sodeynly, 

As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres, 

Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres, 

Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle. 


And again : 

His sleep, his mete, his drink is him biraft, 
That lene he wex, and drye as is a shaft. 
His eyen holwe, and grisly to biholde ; 
His hewe falwe, and pale as asshen colde, 
And solitarie he was, and ever allone, 
And wailing al the night, making his mone. 
And if he herde song or instrument, 
Then wolde he wepe, he mighte nat be stent. 1 

The touch in the last two lines is interesting, and, so far as I 
know, it is original with Chaucer. I have not met in my read- 
ing with any passage in which weeping at the sound of music 
was a symptom of love. 

Finally, the conventional idea that love is caused by beauty 
is employed. Beauty wounds the heart of the lover through his 
eyes. Palamon declares : 

But I was hurt right now thurgh-out myn ye 
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be. 

He is " stung " by the sight of Emilia's beauty : 

He caste his eye upon Emelya, 

And therwithal he bleynte, and cryde ' a ! ' 

As though he stongen were unto the herte. 

Arcite has the same experience : 

And with that sighte hir beautee hurte him so, ... 

And with a sigh he seyde pitously : 

c The f resshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly 

Of hir that rometh in the yonder place ; 

And, but I have hir mercy and hir grace . . . 

I nam but deed.' 

The instances given above are not all the examples of Chau- 
cer's employment of conventional ideas in the Knight's Tale. 
They will suffice, however, to show that in the framework of 

1 With these symptoms may be compared the list of the pictures of sighs, 
broken sleeps, etc., on the walls of the Temple of Venus. 


his love story he made the same large use of these ideas that 
he was accustomed to make when he wrote of love elsewhere. 

Chaucer's purpose in the Knight's Tale, it is generally held, 
is to show the conflict between love and friendship. Indeed, 
this must have been no small part of Boccaccio's purpose in the 
Teseide. But as he manages his narrative, the friendship of the 
two cousins is given such prominence, is kept so constantly 
before the reader as almost to make him feel the possibility of 
friendship's triumph over love in the long run. Not so in 
Chaucer, whose aim seems to be to show 

that love ne lordshipe 
Wol noght, his thonkes, have no felaweshipe. 

With this end in view, the English poet has made some sig- 
nificant changes in his original, the most important of which we 
may note as follows : 

1. He has greatly abridged Boccaccio's version of the story. 

2. From certain hints in Boccaccio, he has developed the 
character of Palamon, thus making an extremely effective con- 
trast with the character of Arcite. 1 

1 This feature of Chaucer's poem is brought out with considerable detail by 
Mr. Tatlock (Chron. and Dev., Appendix C, pp. 231-232) ; and need not be 
further set forth here. I agree, for the most part, with Mr. Tatlock's state- 
ments. I do not think, however, that he recognizes sufficiently the prominence 
given by Boccaccio to Arcite over Palamon. Mr. Tatlock remarks : " In the 
Teseide, though Arcite cuts slightly the better figure, they are hardly distin- 
guished, and both are valorous and honorable young knights, full of all worthy 
emotions" (pp. 231-232). This, to my mind, is a little misleading. Arcite, it 
seems to me, cuts decidedly the better figure throughout the tale. He is, up 
to the time of his death, constantly in the limelight. Note, for instance, the 
manner in which he holds the center of the stage in the combat scene ; how 
he stops to take a breath, and catches a glimpse of Emily, the sight of whom 
restores his vigor, and he returns to the fight, fiercer than ever (viii, 78-80). 

E vie piti fiero ritornb a fedire 

Che prima, si e' lo spronb il desire (viii, 80). 

It seems to me, too, that Arcite has the author's sympathy throughout, much 
more than Palamon. This may account, perhaps, for Boccaccio's disregard of 


3. He has made Emilia almost characterless, though he pre- 
sents her as a charming picture, the object of the love of the 
two cousins. A recent writer says of her : " Emelye is, within 
her limits, as beautiful and touching a figure as any in poetry ; 
but her limits are those of a figure in a stained-glass window 
compared with a portrait of Titian's." l This is quite true, and 
in the portrayal of Emilia Chaucer perhaps made his greatest 
change. To make this matter clear, I must give, at some length, 
an outline of Boccaccio's account of his heroine. 

Not until the third Canto does Emilia make her appearance. 
Then we see her, a simple, innocent girl, going alone every 
morning into the garden, singing songs of love to divert herself. 
But, the poet assures us, she was not in love ; 

A cio tirata da propria natura ; 

Non che d'amore alcun fosse costretta. 

It was while she was singing in the garden that she heard the 
" Alas ! " of Palamon. At this, looking over her shoulder, she 
turned her eyes to the window and blushed ; then arising, she 

poetic justice in having Arcite see Emilia first, though Palamon finally pos- 
sesses her. A passage, in which the author seems to show his sympathy for 
Arcite, is that hero's soliloquy, in which he gives his reasons for expecting to 
win in the fight with his cousin : 

Poi potete veder ch' i' ho ragione 

Di tal battaglia ; onde avremo il favore 

Del forte Marte, e 'n la nostra questione 

II cor mi dice i' saro vincitore. 

Perocch' io volli gia con Palemone 

Particepare, amando, quanta amore 

Con pace, ed e' non voile ; ond' io son certo 

Che degl' Iddii n' ayr6 debito merto (vii, 136). 

I cannot read this passage without the feeling that the author sanctions Arcite's 
words, indeed, that he puts this speech into his hero's mouth in order to 
justify his taking part in a contest with his cousin. There is in this speech, 
too, a hint of the petulance of Palamon's disposition, and of his jealousy. Such 
hints, doubtless, Chaucer seized upon, in building up the character of Palamon, 
as it is presented in the Knight's Tale. 

1 Coulton, Chaucer and His England, p. 222. 


went away (iii, 18). But as she went, she thought of the 
" Alas " ; and although she was a young girl, too young, indeed, 
for Love to claim, still she understood what the " Alas " meant; 
and she was pleased with herself and counted herself beautiful. 
Therefore, she adorned herself the more when she returned 
into the garden (iii, 19). And so she continued to go, always 
keeping her eyes on the window. 

Non che a ci6 Amor la costringesse, 
Ma per vedere s'altri la vedesse. 

And if she saw that she was being watched, as if she were not 
aware of it, she began to sing, gathering the flowers meanwhile, 
and humbly and in a womanly fashion (donnescamente) she 
tried to make herself pleasing to whoever saw her. 

N& la recava a cio pensier d'amore 
Che ella avesse, ma la vanitate 
Ch& innate e alle femmine nel core 
Da fare altrui veder la lor biltate (iii, 30). 

The next glimpse we get of the maiden is when, Arcite being 
about to leave Athens at the command of Theseus, she appears 
on a balcony with her maid, and looks at the exiled hero and 
feels sorry for him. 

We see her again for a moment at the feast which Theseus 
made shortly after Arcite, now disguised as Pentheus, took serv- 
ice with him. She was invited, along with the other ladies, and 
her beauty was the marvel of all ; so great was it that all said 

Che veramente ell' era Citerea. 

But Arcite most of all was charmed by the sight of her. And 
it happened too, that Emilia recognized him, though he was 
unknown to all the others (iv, 53-56). The author reminds us 
later (iv, 56) that Emilia was so young that she had not felt 
the sting of love when Arcite had gone. So when she saw him, 
she remarked within herself, all innocently : " This is that 


Arcite, whom I saw grieving. What does he here? Does he 
not realize that if he should be recognized, he would have to die, 
or return to prison (iv, 57) ? " Still, she was discreet and 
said nothing to any one (iv, 58). 

The next appearance of Emilia in the story is on the occasion 
of the duel in the wood. She is riding on the hunt with the 
royal party, and suddenly she comes upon the two lovers fight- 
ing, and is at once known by each of them (v, 80). At first 
she is so astonished that she neither goes forward nor turns 
back ; she neither moves nor speaks. But after a while, com- 
ing to herself, she calls some of her party and has Theseus 
summoned to witness the duel (v, 81). After the strange case 
has all been explained to Theseus, he addresses her : " Young 
damsel, do you see what love does on your account, since you 
are more beautiful than any other creature ? You ought to 
consider it a sovereign honor." 

Nulla rispose Emilia, ma cambiossi 
Tutta nel viso, tanto vergognosi. 

As they all return to the city, Emilia rides between the two 
lovers, greatly to their delight, being made to do this by 
Theseus (v, 104). 

In the following canto, she appears only for a moment, when 
she with her sister, queen Hippolita, receives graciously the 
many warriors who came to Athens to fight in behalf of Pala- 
mon and Arcite. They are all struck by her beauty, and are 
not surprised that one of the cousins broke out of prison, and 
the other, contrary to command, came back to Athens to gain 
such a treasure (vi, 66, 67). 

The n^xt canto tells of Emilia's preparations for the sacrifice 
to Diana to whom she is devoted ; and of her prayer to the 
goddess so to order things that she may remain a maiden, and 
to turn the hearts of the two lovers away from her. But if her 


destiny be such that she must become the wife of one, she 
prays the goddess that she will send that one to her arms that 
most desires her. 

Che io nol so in me stessa nomare, 
Tanto ciascun piacevole mi pare. 

The reply to her prayer comes at once, when the goddess ap- 
pears and tells her that it is already decided among the gods 
that she must marry one of the two, but which one cannot now 
be disclosed. The goddess then disappears and Emilia returns 
home (vii, 95-109). In this scene for the first time, Emilia 
is something more than a picture. 

We next see the heroine as a witness of the fight. She in- 
clines to neither party, but is very much troubled that she should 
be the cause of all this conflict. She pathetically chides Love 
and Fortune for making her the object of this strife (viii, 96). 
She laments that mothers, fathers, friends, and brothers of those 
in the combat will curse her, and before the altars of the gods 
will call for vengeance upon her. And further, if she must be 
the wife of one of the lovers, she does not know which she 
would choose. Both are the same to her. The god of Love has 
disposed her heart to love, but where to place her affections she 
does not know (viii, 109). The heroine's perplexity and her 
pathetic utterances appeal strongly to our sympathies. She is 
here, for the second time, something of a character. 

Palamon's misfortune in being seized by the savage horse 
loses the day for him. And now suddenly we see Emilia's love 
directing itself to Arcite. Knowing the conditions of the fight, 

Gia d'Arcita credendo veramente 

Esser 1'animo suo, senza dimoro 

A lui volto, e divenne fervente 

Dal? amor d'esso ; e gia per suo ristoro, 

Per lui vittoria pietosa chiedea, 

N piu di Palemon gia le calea. 


She praises his fairness and noble bearing, his prowess and 
daring. Whereas the lovers appeared equal before, now they 
appear entirely unequal (126). She already considers herself 
espoused to Arcite, and prays the gods for her lord, looking at 
him with a new desire, and praising his works above all (127). 

E sol d'Arcita 1'immagine prende, 
E se lascia pigliar, ne si difende. 

The ninth canto tells the story of Arcite 's falling under his 
horse. In this book, Emilia appears more as a character than 
she has yet done in the story. She sees the unfortunate acci- 
dent from where she is, and is stunned and terrified, pale as 
one who is carried to his bier (ix, 10). She laments to herself 
the brevity of her happiness (n, 12) but she, along with the 
queen and others, goes into the lists and tries to comfort and 
aid Arcite (16). Moved by the pitiable sight, she can scarcely 
restrain her grief, and within herself she curses Love, who has 
placed her in such sorrow (18). She cannot keep back the tears 
and her visage changes (19). 

After Arcite has been brought to himself, at the solicitation 
of Theseus, Emilia modestly tries to console the wounded hero, 
tenderly assuring him of her sorrow and of her affectionate re- 
gard for him (27). As Arcite rides back to the city in triumph, 
she sits beside him (32), conducting herself with modesty, her 
beauty being praised by all (40). After the triumphal procession 
reaches the palace and Arcite is placed on a bed, Emilia, together 
with Hippolita and the other ladies, exerts herself in comforting 
the stricken man (49). 

According to the agreement before the fight, the conquered 
rival was to place himself at the mercy of Emilia. It now be- 
comes her duty to pass judgment upon Palamon. As he kneels 
before her (63), he begs her to condemn him to death (64). 
She listens, moved with pity, and with difficulty refrains from 


weeping (65). She appears here to the best possible advantage, 
tender, delicate in feeling, and lovable. She assures Palamon 
gently but firmly that, if the gods had decreed that she should 
love him, she would have done so with true devotion (66). But 
since she is Arcite's alone, she can give no comfort to his rival's 
amorous pains (67, 68). She begs him to look for another love 
(69) and she assures him that she feels no inclination to condemn 
him to death. She then gives him a ring, a sword, a new horse, 
and other gifts, and bids him win glory with them (75). 

In the death scene of Arcite, Emilia is a touching and pathetic 
figure, in her genuine grief and despair. She reproaches herself 
as the cause of all this woe, since she is the object of the god's 
wrath (xi, 67), which had been shown before in the death of 
Achates (a former suitor). Why do they not visit their wrath 
upon her rather than upon Arcite ? She curses the day she was 
born (70), and declares that she will not remain in life long 
after Arcite (71). Now she understands the unfavorable omens 
which she saw while sacrificing to Diana (72). And now 
Arcite asks her, after his death to marry Palamon this is too 
much to think of ; rather will she serve Diana the rest of her days 
(76-79), for she has brought nothing but sorrow, first to Achates 
and then to Arcite himself. If Theseus will have her marry, 
let him send her to one among his enemies, in order that the 
disasters that attend her may fall upon them (80). Then, weep- 
ing, she kisses Arcite for the last time, and falls in a swoon (83). 
The whole scene is one of the most genuine in the work in its 
pathos and tenderness. 

In the eleventh canto we see Emilia lamenting for the dead 
hero (5), and later applying the torch to the funeral pile. 

The twelfth tells how, at the command of Theseus, Emilia 
marries Palamon, although she mildly protests that she feels 
bound to serve Diana, since vengeance had been brought upon 
Arcite on account of her not remaining true to the goddess, as 


she had promised. We see her for the last time at the wedding, 
in all the glory of her heavenly beauty. 

From this synopsis it is apparent that Chaucer, in his presen- 
tation of Emilia, has sacrificed much in his original that is beau- 
tiful and attractive. We may feel certain that Chaucer himself 
appreciated the beauty of Emilia's character as Boccaccio por- 
trays her ; we may be sure, too, that as an artist he deemed it 
necessary to make the sacrifice he did. In fact, it is clear that 
all three of the changes enumerated above, which the poet has 
made in his original, and not the least, the change in the char- 
acter of Emilia, conduce to one end. By the abridgment of 
the tale, Boccaccio's diffuseness is avoided ; by the sharp dis- 
tinction drawn between the characters of Palamon and Arcite, 
attention is directed to them ; and by leaving Emilia a bright 
and lovely picture, yet on the whole characterless, the same 
effect of concentrating the reader's mind on the two cousins is 
obtained. The total result is that which Chaucer was, doubtless, 
aiming at : namely, to heighten the impression that the love 
passion of the two heroes was not only earnest but absolutely 
genuine. 1 

1 Perhaps no other poem of Chaucer's shows the poet's ability to infuse life 
into commonplaces more than the Knighfs Tale. We have seen above the 
large number of absolutely conventional ideas which he employed in telling the 
story. We may note, too, that as far as concerns the love language of the poem, 
little else but conventional language has been used. Notwithstanding this, and 
notwithstanding the fact that his purpose is not to treat the subject of love for 
its own sake, he has contrived to leave the reader with the impression that both 
the lovers were burning with a fervent passion for Emilia. This impression is 
heightened, of course, by the events in the narrative, the risks run by Arcite 
in returning to Athens, the combat in the wood, and other details of the story. 
But it is by the judicious combination of conventional ideas with such incidents, 
and with remarks and comment, that the poet displays his genius and vitalizes 
the dead conventions of love poetry. That the author of the Canterbury 
Tales should show such ability is not astonishing. But the failure of many 
contemporary poets, who were using the same conventions, to get into 
their poetry any effect of genuineness, brings into bolder relief the genius 
of Chaucer. 


In this feature it must be acknowledged, I think, that the 
English poet has improved greatly upon the Italian original. 
While passion, and that in abundance, is not wanting in Boc- 
caccio's poem, there is about this passion an evenness, a certain 
lack of warmth, one might almost say a placidity, which make 
it seem artificial. 1 Such an impression Chaucer has entirely over- 
come ; and in so doing, he has accomplished in a much more 
effective manner his purpose of showing the conflict between 
the love and the friendship of Palamon and Arcite. 

The Nonne Preestes Tale 

We have already had examples in this study in which Chaucer 
employed the conventions of the courtly love poetry for humor- 
ous purposes. In the Nonne Preestes Tale we find the same 
clever use of these ideas. The poet ascribes to Pertelote those 
qualities and characteristics which were expected of the lady in 
conventional love affairs : 

Curteys she was, discreet and debonaire, 
And compaignable, and bar herself . . . faire. 

She was also fair, so fair, indeed, that 

she hath the herte in hold 
Of Chauntecleer loken in every lith. 

The most interesting use of conventional ideas in the poem 
is found in the words of Pertelote, in which she tells Chauntecleer 
what kind -of a husband a woman likes : 

For certes, what so any womman seith, 
We alle desyren, if it mighte be, 
To han housbondes hardy, wyse, and free, 
And secree, and no nigard, ne no fool, . . . 
Ne noon avauntour . . . 

1 For a judicious criticism and comparison of the two versions, Italian and 
English, as regards this point, and as regards the improvement made by Chau- 
cer throughout, see Warton, History of English Poetry, III, 308-310. 


These were the qualities demanded of courtly lovers from the 
time of Andreas on. Considering the connotations of the words 
" secree " and " avauntour " in the courtly love, it is a delightful 
bit of humor in the poet to have Pertelote demand of her hus- 
band (!) that he be secret and that he be not a boaster of favors 

The Squieres Tale 

In the early part of this tale where is described the merriment 
at the house of Cambinskan, the poet makes some use of con- 
ventional love language. For example : 

Now dauncen lusty Venus children dere. 

The line contains the idea that Venus is the goddess of Love 
and of lovers ; and " lusty Venus children " means nothing 
more than " lovers." Reference to the service of the love deity, 
and to the gaiety which was demanded of a lover, is found in 

the lines : 

He moste han knowen Love and his servyse, 

And ben a festlich man as fresh as May. 
Secrecy in love affairs is hinted at in the lines : 

Who coude telle yow the forme of daunces, 
So uncouthe and so fresshe countenaunces, 
Swich subtil loking and dissimulinges 
For drede of jalouse mennes aperceyvinges ? 

We have already had instances of Chaucer's portrayal of false 
lovers; for example, in the Anelida and Arcite and in several of 
the individual poems of the Legend. In every case the deceiver, 
who pretends to be in earnest, acts in all respects the courtly 
lover's part. The Squieres Tale furnishes one more example 
of this type. Though he was a hypocrite, yet to the falcon the 
pretender appeared to be true. She tells Canace of the impres- 
sion he made upon her when he came a-wooing. He seemed to 


her a " welle of gentilesse " ; he showed " humble chere " and 
a "hewe of trouthe," " plesaunce," " busy peyne." 

Right so this god of love, this ypocrite, 
Doth so his cerimonies and obeisaunces, 
And kepeth in semblant alle his observaunces 
That sowneth into gentillesse of love. 

In the lines quoted it is interesting to note once more, along 
with the conventional love ideas, the transfer of terms of religion 
to love. 

In the further description of their relations, the falcon tells 

of the tercelet's "service" (524), of his humility (544), of his 

reverence for her (545), of his obedience, and of his " truth," 

all of which characterized the courtly lover in his position 

of inferiority before the lady. 

Finally, she speaks of the tercelet as being " gentil born, fresh, 
and gay, goodly for to seen, humble and free," all of which 
were the regular qualities ascribed to the courtly lover. 

The Franklin 's Tale 

The situation in the love affair of the Franklin's Tale is pre- 
cisely that bf the accounts of many of the troubadours. Here 
is a woman who is married, and happily married too, to a knight ; 
but her beauty inflames another man with passion. He suffers 
in silence as long as he can bear it ; then he mentions his love 
to her and begs for her favor. The end of his love is purely 
physical gratification, and she recognizes the fact and listens 
patiently to his requests. But unlike the ladies in most of the 
early stories Dorigen does not grant the desired favors to the 
importunate lover. This feature may have been in the original 
" lay " from which Chaucer professes to have taken his story. 
If it was not, the poet has departed from what may be called 
the more usual plan of such stories for the special purpose of 
putting before the reader a picture of the ideal love of man and 


wife. For the real interest in the tale is not in the love story 
of Aurelius, or in the wooing of Dorigen by Arveragus, but in 
the discussion of the question of " sovereignty" which the Wife 
of Bath had started a short time before. 

In those episodes which deal with love the usual conventional 
ideas are employed. The familiar winged god is mentioned in 

' ' Whan maistrie comth, the god of love anon 
Beteth hise winges and farewel ! he is gon ! 

The conventional secrecy in love affairs is observed by Aurelius. 

Of this matere he dorste no word seyn. 
Under his brest he bar it more secree 
Than ever dide Pamphilus for Galathee ; 
His brest was hool, withoute for to sene, 
But in his herte ay was the arwe kene. 

The lover, as usual, is his lady's servant. Arveragus, it is said, 

loved and dide his payne 
To serve a lady in his beste wyse ; 

and at last, this lady for his "worthinesse " and for his "obey- 
saunce " had pity on him and accepted him as her husband. 
Whereupon he swore that he would never take upon himself 
the " maistrye " over her, 

But hir obeye, and folwe hir wil in al 
As any lovere to his lady shal. 

The idea of the lover's fear to speak his love to his lady 
appears in the lines : 

For she was oon the faireste under sonne, 
And eek therto come of so heigh kinrede, 
That wel unnethes dorste this knight, for drede, 
Telle hir his wo, his peyne, and his distresse. 

Similarly, though Aurelius loved Dorigen better than any other 
creature for two years, 

never dorste he telle hir of his grevaunce ; 
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce. 


As the love of Aurelius for Dorigen was unsuccessful, there 
are many statements devoted to this lover's woes and sorrows 
and amorous pains. He made songs, complaints, roundels, and 
virelays in which he lamented 

that he dorste not his sorwe telle 
But languissheth as a furie dooth in helle ; 
And dye he moste, ... as dide Ekko. 

He addresses his lady : 

Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte 
For with a word ye may me sleen or save. 

When she puts on him the task of removing the rocks along 
the shore, recognizing the impossibility of his performing it, 

He to his hous is goon with sorweful herte ; 
He seeth he may nat fro his deeth asterte. 
Him semed that he felte his herte colde ; 
For verray wo out of his wit he breyde. 

His brother puts him to bed, where 

In languor and in torment furious 

Two yeer and more lay wrecche Aurelius 

Er any foot he mighte on erthe goon. 

Here again, in the case of the Franklin s Tale, the examples 
quoted do not comprise all the conventions of which Chaucer 
has made use. But they are enough to show that, as a basis for 
the love stories involved in the narrative, he has employed noth- 
ing but ideas which had been long familiar in love literature. 
Further comment on the tale seems unnecessary. Working with 
the courtly commonplaces, the poet has so managed them as to 
make the story real. Aurelius's passion appears as genuine and 
earnest as is the grief which Dorigen feels at being forced to be 
untrue to her husband. 


With the Franklins Tale, Chaucer's employment of the 
courtly-love ideas ceases. One question now suggests itself, an 
answer to which would be very interesting, were it possible to 
get it : " What was Chaucer's own attitude toward these con- 
ceptions, of which he made such a large use in his poetry ? " 
The writer wishes to state frankly that he does not believe it is 
possible to answer this question finally and definitely. It is diffi- 
cult to tell what Chaucer's ideas are on any subject, so predomi- 
nantly dramatic is his poetic work. Indeed, the question just 
stated would not be raised, were it not that others have felt that 
they could see in the poet's works evidence of a spirit of irony 
and satire against the courtly ideas. We have already, in connec- 
tion with our study of Pandarus, considered the opinions of Ebert 
and ten Brink upon this subject. Another expression, more 
recent, and more cautious, is the following : " His [Chaucer's] 
attitude towards the chivalric ideal of love was, upon the whole, a 
critical one." 1 Still later, certain remarks of Mr. Tatlock 2 seem 
to indicate that he sees in the Knight's Tale a tendency on the 
part of the poet to poke fun at the courtly love therein portrayed. 
But all such statements seem to be unwarranted, and Mr. Tatlock, 
oddly enough, himself supplies the corrective for them. He 
says, in the connection just noted : " Satire is easier to suspect 
than to prove, especially in a poem written when ideas of what 
is ludicrous and the connotations of words were so different from 

1 Billings, Middle English Metrical Romances, New York, 1901, p. xxxi. 

2 Chron. and DeveL, Appendix C, pp. 232-233. 

25 1 


what they are now." 1 We cannot say that Chaucer did not 
laugh to himself at some of the vagaries of lovers of his time. 
But we may suspect that the actions of courtly lovers then were 
no more ridiculous than are the actions of lovers of our day to 
people with a lively sense of humor. Extravagant as the courtly 
love may seem to us, this was the only kind of love there was 
at that period (except the grosser passion of the fabliaux which 
we do not consider here). Only in so far as love is always a fit 
subject for satire, was the chivalrous love ridiculous in an age 
when chivalrous ideas obtained. 

But, aside from the question as to Chaucer's inclination to 
display levity at the extravagance of lovers, the most casual 
consideration of his poems will show the improbability of his 
deliberately satirizing the courtly love. In all the early lyric 
poems, which are purely conventional in both sentiment and 
language, there is nothing that remotely suggests satire or irony. 
And the same is true of those later lyric poems, where there is 
indeed fun in full measure. The Book of the Duchess abounds, 
as we have seen, in the courtly ideas and sentiments. Yet far from 
satirizing these ideas, the poet uses them to pay a graceful and 
delicate compliment to his patron. Consider again the Parla- 
ment of Foules. Here, if anywhere in the whole range of Chau- 
cer's poetry, we might feel justified in saying that the courtly 
ideas were being satirized if we judge entirely from the con- 
tents of the poem. Nothing can be plainer than that the goose 
and the duck openly ridiculed the courtly sentiments of the 
royal tercelet. But are we to identify Chaucer with the goose 
and the duck ? Clearly not. The occasion which the poem was 
written to celebrate (and scholars agree that it has reference to 
the courtship of the royal couple) precludes the possibility of any 
satirical purpose on the part of the author. We have already 
examined the sympathetic treatment of the chivalrous love in 

1 Chron. and Devel., Appendix C, p. 233. 


the Troilus, and there is no more indication of satire in the 
Knights Tale. Levity there may be ; of fun there is plenty. 
But to say that there is irony in the description of the courtly 
love of Palamon and Arcite is unwarranted by anything in the 
poem itself. 

What then is Chaucer's attitude toward this love, judging from 
his poetry ? All we are justified in saying is that he used the 
courtly ideas, as he used every element of the life about him, for 
artistic purposes. If love is ridiculed anywhere, it is done by 
some one of the poet's characters. And we have no right to 
say that the sentiments expressed by any character are those of 
the poet himself. We cannot justly say even, as one writer 
above quoted has said, that Chaucer's attitude toward the chival- 
rous love is a critical one. It is enough to say, and it detracts 
nothing from the glory of our poet, that in treating this material 
he has maintained the detachment of a poetic artist, and has been 
unconcerned about giving his own opinions. 

A recognition of this makes short and easy the task of sum- 
marizing the results of this investigation. We have observed 
that both Gower and Chaucer in their treatment of love employed 
ideas which had been present in erotic literature from the time 
of the troubadours. These ideas Gower took as he found them, 
as many another poet did before him, and lacking the ability to 
impress them with his own individuality he left them unchanged. 
The language employed to set them forth was conventional 
throughout. The figures of the lovers whom Gower wishes to 
portray he does succeed in endowing with some degree of life 
and human quality. But his lack of imagination impoverishes 
his poetry, and his tendency to moralize has the grotesque result 
of making Gower the man elbow out of place Gower the artist. 
With Chaucer, the opposite of all this is true. In his hands, in 
some manner which defies analysis, the old love conventions be- 
come the poet's own. The language he uses to give expression 


to the passion of love is clever, forceful, and inevitable. His 
characters live before us as real people. In his maturity, he 
shows himself always the poet of genius, under whose magic 
touch commonplaces are transformed and become alive. In a 
word, in his use of the courtly-love ideas, as in all his work, 
Chaucer the artist is brilliantly revealed, even though we see 
but little of Chaucer the man. 


id, 120, 222 note 
Against Women Unconstant, 98 
Altenglische Dichtungen des Ms. Har- 

leian 2253, 40 note 
Amores, 16 

Ancren Riwle, 40 note, 86 
Andreas Capellanus, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13 

note, 15, 18, 28, 29, 30, 33, 50, 62, 

63, 65, 69, 71, 115, 1 26 note, 129, 

131, 156, 233 
Anecdotes, Historiques, Legendes et 

Apologues, 203 note 
Anelida and Arcite, 91, 107-108, 121 

note, 247 

Ariadne, Legend of, 228-229 
Ars Amatoria, 3, 4, 26 note, 27 note 
Ayenbite of Iniuit, 45 

Balade of Complaint, 99 
Balade to Rosemounde, 102103 
Bedier, De Nicolao Museto, 5 note 
Benoit de Ste. Maure, 142 note, 160 
Bernart de Ventadorn, i, 3, n, 12, 71 
Bestiary of Philip of Thaun, 126 note 
Billings, Middle English Metrical Ro- 
mances, 251 note 

Boccaccio, in, 122, 129, 134, 141, 
142, 143, 146 note, 147, 150, 160, 
204, 238, 245 

Bone Florence de Rome, La, 201 
Book of Curtesye, 202 note 
Book of the Duchess, 91, 108, 109-118, 
1 19, 130, 145, 146 note, 199 note, 252 
Book of the Knight of La Tour Landry, 
34 note 

Canterbury Tales, 91, 140, 231, 232-249 
Canticum de Creatione, 196 note 
Carmen de variis in amore passionibus 

breviter compilatum, 78 
Cent Balades, Les, 34-37, 128 
Chastiement des Dames, 34 note 
Chatelain de Coucy, Le, 180 

Chaucer, 6, 33, 34, 45, 61, 91-254 
Child, English and Scottish Popular 

Ballads, 201 note 
Chretien de Troies, 2, 3, 9, 13-15, 17, 

J 9> 3 3 J 77> 78, no, 115, 129, 


Cinkante Balades, 38, 39-42, 98 
Clef d 1 Amours, Le, 127 note 
Cleopatra, Legend of , 215-218 
Cligts, 13 

Complaint d 1 Amours, 99 
Complaint of Mars, 91, 105-107 
Complaint of Venus, 9598 
Complaint to His Lady, 93-95 
Complaint to His Purse, 103-105 
Complaint to Pity, 57 note, 92-93, 95 
Concile de Remiremont, 18, 213 
Confessio Amantis, 38, 42-90, 100, ill 

note, 130 

Confessions of Saint Augustine, 203 
Consolation of Philosophy, 205 
Conte de la Charrette, 2 
Cook, The Character of Criseyde, 155 

note, 161 note 

Cortois and Vilain, 26 note, 127 note 
Coulton, Chaucer and His England, 

100 note, 1 1 6 note, 239 note 
Courthope, History of English Poetry, 

155 note 
Courts of Love, 2, 4 note 

Dante, 199, 203 

De Arte Honeste Amandi, 3 

De Excidio Troiae Historia, 142 note 

De Planctu Naturae, 44, in, 126 note 

De Rerum Natura, 208 note 

Des Vilains et des Courtois, 127 

Deschamps, 33, 93, 100 note, 122 note, 

1 80 
Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 

192 note 

Dido, Legend of, 215-218 
Dit dou Vergier, 82 


2 5 6 


Dit du Lion, 117 

Dowden, A History of French Litera- 
ture^ 32 note 

Ebert, Review of Sandras's "Etude sur 

Chaucer" 143 note, 178 note 
Eleanor of Aquitaine, i, 5, 12, 136 
Envoy to Scogan, 103105 
Ermengarde of Narbonne, 5 

Fablel dou Dieu d 1 Amours, 19, 127 

note, 213 
Fasti, 227 note 
Filostrato, 140, 146 note, 148 note, 150 

note, 195, 204 note, 207, 209 note 
Florance and Blancheflor, 19, 127 note, 


Fontaine d 1 Amours, La, 79 note 
Franklin's Tale, \ 14 note, 248-250, 251 
Froissart, 33, 72, 100 note, 180 

Gower, 33, 38-90, in, 115, 117, 253 
Granson, 33, 95, 98 
Guillaume de Lorris, 21, 24, 29 

Handlynge Synne, 45 

Heroides, 222 note, 231 note 

Histoire et Cronicque dii Petit Jehan de 
Saintrl et de la Jeune Dame des 
Belles Cousines, 61 note, u6note 

Historia Trojana, 223 

House of Fame, 90, 108, 118-121, 122, 
221, 222, 223 

Hueline and Eglantine, 128 note 

Hymn to Venus, 207 

Hypermnestra, Legend of , 230231 

Hypsipyle and Medea, Legends of., 2.2.2,- 


Ivain, 15 

Jean de Conde, 127, 214 

Jean le Seneschal, 34 

Jugement dou Roy de Behaigne, Le, 

37 note, no, in note, 128 
Jugement dou Roy de Navarre, Le, 82, 


Ker, Essays on Medieval Literature, 
41 note, 42 note, 89 note 

Kissner, Chaucer in seinen Beziehungen 
zur italienischen Litteratur, 1 42 note, 
143 note, 148 note, 150, 178, 179 

Kittredge, The Date of Chaucer's 

Troilus, 38 note 
Knight of Courtesy and the Fair Lady 

of Faguel, The, 7 note 
Knighfs Tale, 234-246, 251, 253 
Koch, The Chronology of Chaucer's 

Writings, 100 note 

Langlois, Origines et Sources du 

Roman de la Rose, 7 note, 18 note 
Lay Folks' Mass Book, 194 note, 197 

Legend of Good Women, 6, 44, 82, 91, 

108, 119, 122, 196, 208-232, 247 
Legouis, Chaucer, 137 note 
Leopold Shakspere, 155 note 
Liber de Dono Perseverantiae, 195 note 
Liber Soliloquiorum, 193 note, 194 

Lives of the Troubadours, The, 7 note, 

1 2 note 

Livre du Voir-Dit, 100 note 
Lounsbury, Studies in Chaucer, 100 

note, 21 5 note, 216 note 
Lowell, Conversations on Some of the 

Old Poets, nSnote 
Lucretia, Legend of, 226-228 

Machaut, 33, 34, 37 note, 82, 93, 100 

note, in, 116, 117, 180 
Mahn, Die Werke der Troubadours, 

13 note, 101 note 

Man of Lawe's Tale, 85 note 
Manuel des Pechies, 44 note, 45 
Marie of Champagne, i, 2, 5, 32, 34, 136 
Merciles Beaut e, 101-102 
Messe des Oiseaus, La, 214 
Metamorphoses, 218 note, 230 note 
Mirour de POmme, 38, 73, 74 note 
Monk's Tale, 152 note 
Mott, System of Courtly Love, 2, 10 

Neilson, The Origin and Sources of 
"The Court of Love," 4, 37 note, 122 
note, 2ii note, 214 note 

Nonne Preestes Tale, 246-247 

Oratio ad Erasmum, 195 note 

Ovid, 3, 4, 5, 15, 16, 17, 26, 27, 36, 218, 

222,225, 226, 227, 228, 230, 231 

Pamphihis de Amore, 17 
Paradiso, 199 note, 203 
Paradys d>Amottrs, 72 note 



Paris, G., La Littlrature Francaise au 

Moyen Age, i, 2, 4, 29 note, 32 note ; 

La Poesie du Moyen Age, 3,4,34 note ; 

Origines de la Poesie Lyrique au 

Moyen Age, 7 note 
Parliament of Fowls, 91, 119, 121-128, 

209, 252 
Persones Tale, 45, 68 note, 69 note, 74 

note, 86 note, 195 note, 198 note 
Philomela, Legend of, 229-230 
Phyllis, Legend of, 230 
Phyllis and Flora, 82 note 
Plato, Timaeus, 205 
Prick of Conscience, 45, 202 note 
Prologue to Canterbury Tales, 202 note, 

Prologue to Legend of Good Women, 208- 

215, 226 
Pyramus and Tkisbe, Legend of, 218- 


Raimond de Miraval, 10 note 
Rambaud d'Orange, 112 note 
Rambaut de Vanqueiras, 13 note 
Raynouard, Choix des Poesies Origi- 
nates des Troiibadours, 10 note 
Richard Rolle, 40 
Roman de Troie, 142 note 
Romance of the Rose, 21-33, 44' 45 note > 
64 note, 68, 79, 80, 82, 94, 109, 114, 
127 note, 181, 212, 213, 233 
Romances of the Round Table, 2, 3, 4 
Root, The Poetry of Chaucer, 136 note, 
142 note, 145, 161 note, 171 note, 
177 note 

Saint-Didier, G. de, 10 note, n note 
Seconds Nonnes Tale, 200 note 
Somme des Vices et des Vertus, Le, 45 
Somnium Scipionis, 122 
Squieres Tale, 247-248 
SyTpherd,StuJitsin the "Hous of Fame," 
i6note, io8note, 119 note, 128 note 

Ten Brink, History of English Litera- 
ture, 85 note, 154 note; Studien, 152 
note, 179 

Teseide, in note, 122, 238 

Traitie, 89 

Trial Forewords, 100 note, 107 note, 
122 note 

Triamour, Sir, 7 note 

Troilus and Criseyde, 7 note, 61, 68 
note, 72 note, 91, 104 note, n6note, 
119, 122, i25note, 129-208, 209, 211, 
213, 214, 231, 253 

Venus la Deesse d? Amour, 19, 20, 213 
Vita Sancti Cristofori, 196 note 

Warton, History of English Poetry, 

234 note, 246 note 
Watriquet de Couvin, 79 note 
Wechssler, Frauendienst und Vasal- 

litdt, 1 1 note 
Wife of Bath, 7 note 
William d' Amiens, 101 note 
Womanly Noblesse, 99 
Woohing of Our Lord, 40 note 
Wright, Womankind in Western Eu- 
rope, 1 80 note